patients

Elderly patients being executed with medicines in UK hospitals

Monday, March 29, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: elderly, hospitals, health news

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(NaturalNews) Concern is growing that the United Kingdom's Liverpool Care Pathway, intended to ease the comfort of patients whose death is inevitable, is being misused to railroad elderly patients onto a path toward early death.

"While we've been preoccupied with the moral pluses and minuses of living wills, assisted suicide and euthanasia, legalized execution of some of society's most vulnerable has become available, most probably at a hospital near you," writes Telegraph columnist Liz Hunt. "How did we let this happen?"

The Liverpool Care Pathway, which has been endorsed by the British government and adopted by 900 different hospitals and nursing homes across the country, allows a patient's care staff to remove invasive or uncomfortable medications or devices from a patient they have unanimously judged to be close to death, with no hope of recovery. Controversially, this allows medical staff to deprive patients of food or water or to sedate them continuously until they die. Recently, a group of British medical experts objected that these procedures can mask signs that a patient is actually recovering.

"We've long accepted the practice of easing terminally ill patients towards death, by upping the dose of morphine so that pain and consciousness are blunted until respiration is suppressed completely," Hunt writes. "Sensible people view it as the most compassionate of acts. But being 'made comfortable' is no longer the reassuring euphemism it once was."

Hunt recounts a story of a friend who was awakened at 4 a.m. by a phone call from the nursing home where her grandmother is a resident. Her grandmother was experiencing trouble breathing, and the facility staff wanted to know if they should bother calling an ambulance or if they should just "make her comfortable." When the friend instructed them to call an ambulance, they asked if she was "sure."

In other recent cases, an 80-year-old pneumonia patient was recently put on the pathway and deprived of food and water until her daughter successfully fought for her to be removed. She recovered. A 76-year-old pneumonia patient, however, was allowed to die due to doctors' judgment that his cancer was spreading too fast.

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

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