Palliative sedation is a legitimate form of pain control that is required in only very rare cases. But death squad medicine advocates seek to use it as a way of making people die by putting them in comas and then denying food and water, something that is sometimes called terminal sedation.
The Liverpool Care Pathway was supposed to encourage palliative sedation, because too many patients on the NHS were dying in pain. But apparently, its nuance has been turned into a blunt instrument — as many advocates warned — making terminal sedation a common practice. And once again, doctors and others are sounding the alarm. From the Telegraph story:
Hospitals may be depriving elderly patients of food and drink to hasten their deaths as part of cost-cutting measures to free up bed space, leading doctors warn. Tens of thousands of patients with terminal illnesses are placed on a “death pathway” to help end their lives every year. However, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, six doctors warn that hospitals may be using the controversial scheme to reduce strain on hospital resources. Supporters of the Liverpool Care Pathway, which allows medical staff to withhold fluid and drugs in a patient’s final days, claim it is the kindest way of letting them slip away. But the experts say in their letter that natural deaths are often freer of pain and distress. Informed consent is not always being sought by doctors, who fail to ask patients about their wishes while they are still in control of their faculties, warn the six. This has led to an increase in patients carrying cards informing doctors that they do not wish to be put on the pathway in the last few days of their lives.
Authorities deny abuse. But these alerts are becoming too frequent to ignore.
Here’s the lesson for us: Top-down medicine leads to unnuanced care. Centralized control results in connect the dots medical practice. The Quality of Life ethic endangers the vulnerable. The same thing could happen here if we aren’t very careful: Warning! Warning! Warning!