Doctors and experts who care for the terminally ill in Great Britain claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death – a categorization that may mask later signs of improvement and lead to a needless self-fulfilling prophesy of death, according to a report in the UK’s Telegraph.
According to the report, the often fatal routine is a product of that country’s National Health Service guidance regulations that allow treating physicians to have fluid and drugs withdrawn from the apparently terminally ill – with many placed on sedation until they pass away.
The doctors and experts in the medical trenches have gone public with a letter to the media that such procedures administered by rote are behind a “national crisis” in patient care.
“Forecasting death is an inexact science,” the drafters of the letter write. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.
“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."
The scheme under fire, called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), is currently in use in more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England.
The concerned doctors and experts, however, claim that patients can become semi-conscious and confused as a side effect of pain-killing drugs such as morphine if they are also dehydrated. This can cause them to be “wrongly” put on the pathway, which creates a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that they would die.
Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said: “Even the tiniest things that happen towards the end of a patient’s life can have a huge and lasting effect on patients and their families’ feelings about their care.
“Guidelines like the LCP can be very helpful, but healthcare professionals always need to keep in mind the individual needs of patients. There is no one size fits all approach.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health defended the procedures, saying: “People coming to the end of their lives should have a right to high quality, compassionate and dignified care.
"The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is an established and recommended tool that provides clinicians with an evidence-based framework to help delivery of high quality care for people at the end of their lives.
"Many people receive excellent care at the end of their lives. We are investing £286 million over the two years to 2011 to support implementation of the End of Life Care Strategy to help improve end of life care for all adults, regardless of where they live.”
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