The Future of U.S. Health Care (If the Liberals Get Their Way)
From The Times:
AN 80-year-old grandmother who doctors identified as terminally ill and left to starve to death has recovered after her outraged daughter intervened.Well that’s reassuring. Just how often is it “possible” in a system starved for resources.
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.
Doctors say Fenton is an example of patients who have been condemned to death on the Liverpool care pathway plan. They argue that while it is suitable for patients who do have only days to live, it is being used more widely in the NHS, denying treatment to elderly patients who are not dying.
Fenton’s daughter, Christine Ball, who had been looking after her mother before she was admitted to the Conquest hospital in Hastings, East Sussex, on January 11, says she had to fight hospital staff for weeks before her mother was taken off the plan and given artificial feeding.
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. ”
Fenton was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. Although Ball acknowledged that her mother was very ill she was astonished when a junior doctor told her she was going to be placed on the plan to “make her more comfortable” in her last days.
Ball insisted that her mother was not dying but her objections were ignored. A nurse even approached her to say: “What do you want done with your mother’s body?”
On January 19, Fenton’s 80th birthday, Ball says her mother was feeling better and chatting to her family, but it took another four days to persuade doctors to give her artificial feeding.
Fenton is now being looked after in a nursing home five minutes from where her daughter lives.
Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in palliative medicine, is concerned that other patients who could recover are left to die. He said: “As they are spreading out across the country, the training is getting probably more and more diluted.”
A spokesman for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Patients’ needs are assessed before they are placed on the [plan]. Daily reviews are undertaken by clinicians whenever possible.”
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.Of course, even 3% is a large number of people who are literally being starved and dehydrated to death.
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.”
Deborah Murphy, the national lead nurse for the care pathway, said: “If the education and training is not in place, the [plan] should not be used.” She said 3% of patients placed on the plan recovered.
But nobody knows how many would have recovered had they never been placed on the plan to begin with.
Even if “the education and training” is in place, no assessments from even well-trained people can be perfect, and the inevitable effect will be to kill patients who could recover and live a year or two or five years of meaningful life.
And, under any system of socialized medicine, budgetary constraints will bias the assessments toward the option that releases scarce resources for other uses, that is, which lets people die.
The phrase “death panels” just can’t be avoided here.