Saturday, September 5, 2009

Death Sentence for British Patients September 3, 2009:
A group of British physicians specializing in palliative and end of life care has sounded the alarm that some terminally ill patients are being killed under an ethics protocol recently approved by the country's health care rationing body. Patients in Britain are being misdiagnosed as "close to death" and sedated and dehydrated to death the doctors said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph this week. Under a National Health Service (NHS) protocol called the Liverpool Care Pathway, patients are being labelled as dying "without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong" the physicians said in their letter. Under the guidelines, the diagnosis that a patient is close to death must be made by the entire medical team, including a senior doctor. This diagnosis, under existing rules, then allows a patient to be sedated and to have food and hydration and other treatment, such as antibiotics, withdrawn until death. Under the Pathway protocol, patients can be diagnosed as "close to death" if they become confused or have difficulty swallowing. But the doctors warn that these symptoms can be caused by the sedating medication and dehydration, creating a self-fulfilling diagnosis. In the letter, Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics at the University of London, Dr. Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke's cancer centre in Guildford and four others, said that the practice is causing a "national wave of discontent" as family members watch their loved ones killed by dehydration. John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children commented that the "practice of consigning vulnerable patients to a death pathway" is the result of years of changes to the legal system that is building up to the effectively legalisation of euthanasia. "The government's 2005 Mental Capacity Act," Smeaton said, "extended the possible scope of this practice. The inherent right to life of all patients, whether they are terminally ill or not, must be defended in the face of the government's war against the weak." Barbara Wilding, Britain's longest serving female chief constable, said last month that the growing public approval of assisted suicide is a threat to elderly people. Wilding said that "a growing rift" between the generations is becoming a significant challenge for police who are concerned that increasing relaxation of assisted suicide laws could be exploited by families to kill "burdensome elderly relatives". Wilding told the Daily Telegraph, "From a policing perspective we need to be very careful on this to make sure it does not become a way of getting rid of a burden. I will be watching any change in legislation very carefully". The Liverpool Care Pathway, described by its formulators as a "template" to guide the care of the dying, was approved in 2004 by the notorious National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government's health scrutiny body in charge of rationing health services. The NICE is known to be heavily biased in favour of dehydrating patients to death, as was revealed in the case of Leslie Burke, a British man who attempted unsuccessfully to obtain court guarantees that he would not be killed by this method once his motor neurone disease had rendered him unable to communicate. The Pathway has been adopted nationwide with more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England using it to allocate health care resources. In August, the BBC reported that some physicians in Britain and abroad are concerned with the increasing use of "continuous deep sedation" in treating the terminally ill. Deep sedation, in which a patient is kept continuously unconscious or at a low level of consciousness, is ethically used in cases where pain is treatable by no other means. It can have the effect of reducing life expectancy by suppressing respiration but classical ethics allows this if it is an undesired and unintended secondary effect to the relief of pain. But reports from the Netherlands show that the use of continuous deep sedation until death was becoming more widespread in that country where direct euthanasia is legal. In 2001, researchers found that in six European countries deep sedation was used in 8.5 percent of all deaths in patients with cancer and other diseases. In most cases patients under deep sedation were also denied fluids. In the Czech republic, where assisted suicide is illegal, it was revealed that some doctors were using large doses of morphine to kill patients in order "not to prolong" patients' suffering.

1 comment:

    The Liverpool Care Pathway may be the slippery slope to backdoor euthanasia

    Could the most ardent fan of George Orwell have asked for a more classic, totalitarian euphemism than “the Liverpool Care Pathway”? That is the technical term employed by the NHS for a system of patient assessment that selects those deemed “close to death” for withdrawal of food and fluids or being placed on continuous sedation until they die.

    In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a group of experts concerned with care for the terminally ill has denounced this system as sometimes amounting, in the words of Dr Peter Hargreaves, consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, to a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. Signs that a patient is in fact improving can be concealed by the LCP system. Patients may become semi-conscious or confused simply as a result of pain-killing drugs if they are also dehydrated. Dr Hargreaves has taken patients off the “pathway” and found that they then lived for “significant” amounts of time.

    The medical profession is now concerned and rightly so. In 2007-08, 16.5 per cent of deaths in Britain resulted from continuous deep sedation – twice the rate of the Netherlands with its notorious culture of death and legalised euthanasia. The question has to be asked: is this euthanasia by the back door? Is the NHS getting rid of bed-blockers even faster than David Cameron in his purge of the Tory old guard?

    It was instructive to see how little examination this life-or-death issue merited on the television news: a brief mention, with no film or interviews. Contrast that with the prolonged and sympathetic coverage given to any crusader for “the right to die” and it is not difficult to detect where media sympathies lie. That is an appalling example of the liberal consensus at work – climate change and immigration are among other similarly manipulated issues in the media.

    Inch by inch, the state is taking over not only the everyday minutiae of how we live our lives, but also how long those lives should be. America has risen up against Obama’s “death panels”; it is unlikely the British have the will to exercise the same instinct of self-preservation by halting this drift towards the unthinkable.