In a consultation on updating its Good Medical Practice guidance, the GMC said doctors must take a lead role in making sure patient safety, comfort and dignity are always maintained.
It said this should particularly be the case for patients who are unable to drink, feed or clean themselves.
It added that doctors must also offer help if they think a child or vulnerable adult’s rights may have been abused.
The consultation, which runs until 10 February, said good care involves taking account of spiritual, cultural and religious factors when treating patients.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the new guidance reflects the challenges doctors face every day. ‘This guidance makes clear that a doctor’s responsibilities do not begin and end with providing clinical treatment.
‘Good Medical Practice is about more than setting a minimum "bar" below which standards of practice must not fall, or against which disciplinary action is taken. It must be a means of promoting excellent care and fostering the leadership and commitment that lie at the heart of medical professionalism.'