Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Pallliative care experts in the UK are charging that terminally ill patients are being intentionally misdiagnosed as being close to death in order to enable doctors to stop treatment and instead dehydrate the patient to death. My contacts in the UK have been warning me about the “Liverpool Care Pathway” for some time and now, here it is in the TelegraphFrom the story:

Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors warn today. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death. Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn. As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter states. It has been signed palliative care experts including Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London, Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, and four others.

“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong. As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”

Here’s the thing: Every hospice expert I have spoken with say that palliative sedation is rarely necessary to stop suffering.  If some 16% of dying patients die under sedation as the story states, something is very wrong.

I am sorry, but this is a direct consequence of the rejection of human exceptionalism and the embrace a quality of life ethic. Indeed, it shows where utilitarianism leads, where in the drive to stop suffering we end up turning on the sufferer. Think about it: How often these days do we hear bioethicists bemoaning the “drawing out of the dying process,” when what we are really discussing is extending life?

Not coincidentally to our discussion of Obamacare, it was pushed by the NICE utilitarian bioethics board—the very kind that the highly influential former Sen. Tom Daschle wants for America—which could arise from the proposed cost/benefit boards in the current health care plans:
Developed by Marie Curie, the cancer charity, in a Liverpool hospice it was initially developed for cancer patients but now includes other life threatening conditions. It was recommended as a model by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government’s health scrutiny body, in 2004. It has been gradually adopted nationwide and more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England currently use the system.

If these allegations are  true, it is a scandal of virtually unprecedented proportions: A detailed investigation should be conducted.  And if people were truly sedated and dehydrated to death without consent before their time, heads should, figuratively roll, medical licenses should be revoked, and—if the facts warrant—criminal charges filed.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles