Thursday, June 21, 2012

Backdoor Euthanasia in the UK?

If this story is accurate, it's very disturbing: "Top doctor's chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year" (Daily Mail, 6/19/2012).

The article discusses findings by Dr. Patrick Pullicino (a neurologist) regarding:
[T]he 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.
Of course compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients is a good thing, when voluntarily chosen by the patient and/or their designee.

But Dr. Pullicino notes (and has reportedly seen first-hand) cases where patients with treatable conditions are put on the LCP pathway against the family's wishes because "because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds".  In other words, this is becoming an involuntary "equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly".

For example:
In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift.
Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP.
'I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,' he said. 'His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,' he said.
(Read the full text of "Top doctor's chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year".)

If these reports are true, this is an alarming breach of medical ethics and a gross violation of patients' individual rights.

Fortunately, the US health system isn't at that point yet.  Yet.

(Via Dr. Richard Amerling.)