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Mentally Ill Sentenced to Death by NHS

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: NHS, mentally ill, health news

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(NaturalNews) In a letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, a group of medical experts has claimed that a government protocol intended to reduce suffering in the terminally ill may actually be causing the deaths of patients who might otherwise have recovered.

The Liverpool Care Pathway, originally developed by the cancer nonprofit Marie Curie, has been adopted as a recommendation by the British government's health regulatory body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Patients are placed on the pathway if their entire medical team, including a senior doctor, concludes that they are approaching death and cannot be saved. At this point, doctors halt treatment with any drugs or invasive procedures that are judged unhelpful. They may receive food and water if they can still keep it down, but may instead be put on continuous sedation until they die.

Yet experts warn that the symptoms used to diagnose someone for the pathway, including confusion, loss of consciousness or difficulty swallowing medication, can be caused by other conditions -- such as mental illness or the combination of painkillers and dehydration.

"Forecasting death is an inexact science," the letter read. "As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."

Meanwhile, continuous sedation can conceal signs that a patient is improving. And once they place a patient on the pathway, many medical workers stop looking for signs of recovery.

"If they are sedated it is much harder to see that a patient is getting better," said Professor Emeritus Peter Millard of the University of London.

"I have been practicing palliative medicine for more than 20 years and I am getting more concerned about this 'death pathway' that is coming in," said signatory Peter Hargreaves of St Luke's Cancer Center. "It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Sources for this story include: www.telegraph.co.uk.
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