NHS Meltdown: Death Panels!
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
Telegraph. From 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then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous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.
Wesley J. Smith
Date: September 2, 2009
to this article.
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