by Steve Doughty/The Daily Mail
NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday. Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.
He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country. It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent. It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.
There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.
Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’. He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.
Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated. He said this showed that claims they had hours or days left are ‘palpably false’.