In England, it’s called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). Here it is better known as the “death panel,” but the end result is the same. When you become so sick that the cost of your care is deemed burdensome to the state, you are consigned to the proverbial ice floe and set adrift.
Shocking new figures released on Tuesday reveals that the situation in Britain is more grave (no pun intended) than anyone thought. The MailOnline reports that as many as 60,000 patients are placed on the LCP each year, a virtual death sentence, without giving their consent. A third of families, moreover, are kept in the dark when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment from loved ones.
And it gets worse than that: Some patients are denied nutrition and fluids, both measures designed to hasten their deaths, which typically occur within 29 hours.
Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert, an anti-euthanasia group, is quoted as saying, “The Pathway is designed to finish people off double quick. It is a lethal pathway.”
Yet, not everyone shares that grim assessment. National Health Service Secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed that the LCP is a “fantastic step forward,” adding that “we need to be unabashed about that because it’s basically designed to bring hospice-style care to terminally-ill people in hospitals.”
The 60,000 figure was arrived at through a joint audit of in-patient and death records from 178 hospitals by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool and the Royal College of Physicians. The audit showed that an estimated 130,000 patients are put on the pathway each year. Thousands are condemned to die in pain because nurses do not do enough to keep them comfortable while drugs are administered.
Concerns have been raised that clinical judgments are being skewed by incentives for hospitals to use the pathway. MailOnline reports that health trusts are thought to have been rewarded to the tune of £30 million ($49 million) for putting additional patients on the LCP.
Critics note that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because there is no scientific method of predicting when death will come. But Secretary Hunt told LBC Radio that a few wrongful deaths shouldn’t be construed as an indictment on the system:
I would be very sad if as a result of something that is a big step forward going wrong in one or two cases we discredited the concept that we need to do a lot better to give people dignity in their final hours because it’s something we haven’t done well.
Lots of people don’t want to die with lots of tubes going in and out of their body — they actually want to die in a dignified way.
Hunt didn’t elaborate on how much dignity patients experience when their suffering goes untreated or they are denied food and water.
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