July 24, 2012

Fighting against 'Backdoor euthanasia'

It's come to this.  Terminally ill patients who fear being placed on 'routine' death pathway issued with opt-out cards by charity

A British charity now provides terminally ill patients with special cards saying:  'Please do not give me the Liverpool Care Pathway treatment without my informed consent or that of a relative.'
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However, in a recent letter to the Daily Telegraph, six doctors who specialize in elderly care warned hospitals across the UK could be using the controversial practice as routine to ease the pressure on resources.  They added that in the elderly, natural death was more often free of pain and distress.  The group warned that not all doctors were acquiring the correct consent from patients and are failing to ask about what they wanted while they were still able to decide.

Here's why.

One professor and consultant to the National Health Service claims The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year.

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.  Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country. It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.
It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Professor Pullicino, a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, was speaking to the Royal Society of Medicine in London. ...He said: ‘The lack of evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway makes it an assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway.  ‘Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP.  ‘Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition. ‘Predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically.
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A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The Liverpool Care Pathway is not euthanasia and we do not recognize these figures. The pathway is recommended by NICE and has overwhelming support from clinicians – at home and abroad – including the Royal College of Physicians.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 24, 2012 11:21 AM | Permalink