October 18, 2012

"Playing on people’s fears and sympathies around dying in order to sanitise euthanasia"

At first glance, the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) seems like the way to go.  its objective is to ensure that a dying oerson is treated with as much dignity and comfort as possible during their last days.

But, as Melanie Phillips points out, it's often sued to hasten the deaths of those people doctors deem worthless, a backdoor form of euthanasia

One of its ten ‘key messages’ is that it ‘neither hastens nor postpones death’. But, on the contrary, many examples have emerged where it has, indeed, been used to hasten death.  Terminally ill patients have been heavily sedated and deprived of essential nutrients and fluids in order to make them die more quickly.  And there are claims that it is increasingly being applied without the knowledge of patients’ families, and when such patients still have a chance of recovering for a few more precious weeks, months or even years of life.

One report last year found that as  many as 2,500 families were not even  told that their relatives had been put  on the LCP.
Earlier this year, Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist and professor of clinical neurosciences at Kent University, told a conference that the LCP had become an ‘assisted death pathway’ for than 100,000 patients each year. ‘Very likely, many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP,’ he said.

Horrifyingly, the LCP has become a  self-fulfilling prophecy. When people are put on it, they are said to be dying.  But they may not be dying at all — not, that is, until they are put on the  ‘pathway’, whereupon they really do die as a result.    In other words, they are killed. What’s more, they are killed in a most cruel and callous way through starvation or dehydration. And this in a health service that is supposed to be a national byword for compassion!

This really is an obscene abuse of people who expect the NHS to care for them, not kill them.
So how can this awful situation have been allowed to develop? How can hospitals governed by the ethical imperative to ‘first do no harm’ be killing patients in their care? The first and most cynical reason — believed by a number of deeply concerned doctors — is that it is being done to save money. There are suspicions, based on much circumstantial evidence, that such patients are being dispatched via the LCP because — simply and crudely — the hospitals need their beds to meet  overwhelming demand
Indeed, the abuse of the LCP is not just about economics. More fundamentally, it has arisen from a profound confusion in society caused by a collapse of moral absolutes and a resulting inability to make the key distinction between dying and killing.  This confusion lies at the heart of the powerful campaign to legalise euthanasia.

It was graphically illustrated by the decision of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society to change its name to Dignity In Dying, which deliberately muddled dying with the taking of life — thus playing on people’s fears and sympathies around dying in order to sanitise euthanasia.  It is precisely this corruption of language that has sent us hurtling down this most slippery pathway to killing.

First, the word ‘dying’ has been applied to people suffering from terminal illness  or who are considered by doctors or  other experts to have lives that are  not worth living, even when they are not dying at all.

The second stage in this abuse of  language has been to re-label actions designed to end the life of someone  who is not dying by calling this ‘helping them to die’.  Such actions include the withdrawal of food or water. But that is starving or dehydrating someone to death. And that is not helping them to die, but killing them.

One woman's lonely death on the NHS's 'care pathway' to the grave: MPs demand action after another patient is chosen to die without doctors telling family

As Miss Goom lay dying alone, staff reassured relatives on the phone just hours before her death that there was no urgent need to visit – even though doctors had already removed tubes providing vital food and fluids.

Her family discovered that she had died only when her niece went to visit her and found she was already being prepared for the mortuary. They said last night that they will never be able to stop feeling guilty that no one was there in her final hours.

The Mail has been contacted by several families who claim that relatives were put on the Liverpool Care Pathway – the controversial system designed to ease the suffering of the dying in their final hours – without any consultation.

Some said they found out that their relatives were on the pathway only after they happened to read their medical notes; and by that time it was too late.
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 18, 2012 11:36 AM | Permalink