I’m concerned about Death Panels. They’re in the news again, those much-mocked death panels first named by Sarah Palin to describe people wielding life-and-death power over those “‘unproductive’ members of society” who “could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care…”
I’m concerned, because they already exist, you know. And no matter how dramatically bad the phrase “death panels” sounds, their actual execution is far worse. In England, patients who are identified as dying are sedated, denied food, water, and medicine, and left to die. Over there, it’s called the “Liverpool Care Pathway” instead of death panels. Much less stressful-sounding.
A recent example of this plan in execution is being widely reported today. From the TimesOnline:
AN 80-year-old grandmother who doctors identified as terminally ill and left to starve to death has recovered after her outraged daughter intervened.
Hazel Fenton, from East Sussex, is alive nine months after medics ruled she had only days to live, withdrew her antibiotics and denied her artificial feeding. The former school matron had been placed on a controversial care plan intended to ease the last days of dying patients…
[Christine] Ball, 42, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, said: “My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”
Hazel Fenton is one of many. Fortunately, her daughter was concerned enough to fight for several weeks to ensure that her mother got the care she needed to survive. But Mrs. Fenton is not alone in her plight. The Times article goes on to report another instance of this particular form of death panel being used simply to pigeon-hole patients to justify drastically reduced care.
In a separate case, the family of an 87-year-old woman say the plan is being used as a way of giving minimum care to dying patients.
Susan Budden, whose mother, Iris Griffin, from Norwich, died in a nursing home in July 2008 from a brain tumour, said: “When she was started on the [plan] her medication was withdrawn. As a result she became agitated and distressed.
“It would appear that the [plan] is . . . used purely as a protocol which can be ticked off to justify the management of a patient.”
In his blog Notes From A Hospital Bed (The ramblings of a poor sod forced to spend months in traction in an NHS hospital), Traction Man refers to the Liverpool Care Pathway as the NHS’s own version of euthanasia.
This procedure is innocuously called the Liverpool Care Pathway Plan. If you ever find yourself in a hospital and the doctors and nurses start whispering and asking the student nurse to fetch the care pathway manual, you can safely assume you’re about to be decommissioned. Usually you’ll be unconscious and in no state to argue the toss.
If you are ‘Liverpooled’ you can expect to have your food supply withdrawn and your antibiotics stopped as you’re allowed to gently slip away. However, the alarming fact about this unofficial form of euthanasia is that some 3% of patients who experience the Merseyside Murder are ungrateful and thoughtless enough to survive and go on to make a full recovery, in some cases going on to enjoy years of extra life.
Oh yes; you’re allowed to “gently slip away” after being denied food and water and medication. I wonder how gentle it actually is.
For instance, the nurses will put lip balm on [her] because her lips will crack, peel, and bleed from the dehydration.
~And her mouth will not open after a day or two…the aides will pry it open to do oral care. They’ll do a good job with it though.
They’ll use body lotion because [her] skin will begin to break down and show signs of flaking, drying, cracking, or being parched.
~Hopefully they’ll use a nice scented lotion so [she] can have stimulation. The aides will never forget the smell.
They’ll put a “scopolamine patch” behind her ear to enhance the drying up of saliva and other secretions.
~Can you imagine how your mouth would feel?
And it gets worse. Does that sound a bit familiar? It should. It happened here, neraly nearly five years ago, to Terri Schiavo.
Starvation; dehydration; withholding medicine: This is what the Liverpool Care Path entails. And it describes succinctly the death panels that Sarah Palin and many others are concerned about.
I have a mother in her 70s and a mother-in-law in her 80s. You’re damn right I’m concerned. You should be too.