A senior consultant claimed that doctors from NHS are ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients prematurely because those patients are too difficult to deal with or to free up beds. Patrick Pullicini, a professor, said that doctors turned a controversial ‘death pathway’ into euthanasia of the elderly. Pullicini said that there was a lack of evidence for starting the Liverpool Care Pathway, which is used in hospitals across the United Kingdom. The method is used when doctors believe that a patient has not shot at recovering and that death is imminent. The method includes removing treatment, including not providing food or water, and can bring death within 33 hours.
Each year in Britain there are 450,000 deaths of people in hospitals or under the care of NHS. Close to 29 percent, or 130,000, were patients who were on the Liverpool Care Pathway method. Pullicini said that more often than not, elderly patients who possibly could live longer, were placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway, which became an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’. Pullicini cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ reasons for the use of the pathway. Pullicini even said that he interrupted to remove a patient from the LCP. That patient was treated successfully with other methods.
In his example, Pullicini said a 71-year-old was admitted to the hospital for epilepsy and pneumonia. The patient was placed on the LCP by a doctor covering a weekend shift. Pullicini said he returned to work and found the patient unresponsive and the family angry because they did not agree to the LCP.
‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said. ‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family.’ Pullicino is a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent. Pullicino was speaking in front of the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
‘The lack of evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway makes it an assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway. Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP. Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition. Predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically. This determination in the LCP leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The personal views of the physician or other medical team members of perceived quality of life or low likelihood of a good outcome are probably central in putting a patient on the LCP. If we accept the Liverpool Care Pathway we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths.