P. H. Millard
Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics University of London
Dr Anthony Cole
Chairman, Medical Ethics Alliance
Dr Peter Hargreaves
Consultant in Palliative Medicine
Dr David Hill
Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons
Dr Elizabeth Negus
Lecturer, Barking University
Dowager Lady Salisbury
Chairman, Choose Life
Both John Smeaton of SPUC and Lifesitenews have covered the matter today.
The Telegraph itself reports here: "Sentenced to death on the NHS".
The letter reads as follows:
SIR – The Patients Association has done well to expose the poor treatment of elderly patients in some parts of the NHS (report, August 27). We would like to draw attention to the new “gold standard” treatment of those categorised as “dying”. Forecasting death is an inexact science.
Just as, in the financial world, so-called algorithmic banking has caused problems by blindly following a computer model, so a similar tick-box approach to the management of death is causing a national crisis in care.
The Government is rolling out a new treatment pattern of palliative care into hospitals, nursing and residential homes. It is based on experience in a Liverpool hospice. If you tick all the right boxes in the Liverpool Care Pathway, the inevitable outcome of the consequent treatment is death.
As a result, a nationwide wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients. Syringe drivers are being used to give continuous terminal sedation, without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.
It is disturbing that in the year 2007-2008, 16.5 per cent of deaths came about after terminal sedation. Experienced doctors know that sometimes, when all but essential drugs are stopped, “dying” patients get better.
I daresay there are occasions when it is clear that a patient is dying and there comes a time when the body neither requires nor accepts food and hydration. But we are right to be concerned in the current climate of confusion concerning life and death matters.