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The Laz Word: Time to die?

Does the Liverpool Care Pathway send people to an early grave or give them peace in their final days? Larry Neild ponders

Published on September 7th 2009.

The Laz Word: Time to die?

MONTY Python made dying a laughing matter with its anthem for the departing, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

While the LCP may have been devised with the very best of intentions, I somehow don’t trust a team of total strangers, albeit medics and nurses, to decide I need a gentle shove towards the end of my mortal coil

But a group of medical experts who care for the terminally ill would probably re-title it Always Look on the Grim Side.

They are claiming that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death, are having fluids and drugs withdrawn and put under continuous sedation until they gasp their last breath.

At the centre of this war of wards, is a procedure devised in Liverpool known as the Liverpool Care Pathway. It involves a series of tick-box assessments, which aim to assess the likelihood of death in patients deemed to be terminally ill in hospitals, nursing and residential homes.

LCP was originally devised at the Marie Curie hospice in Woolton, to help patients with cancer, but it is now being applied to patients with other conditions as the Government's new treatment pattern for palliative care is rolled out.

The Liverpool way of exiting this mortal world has been adopted in more than 300 hospitals as well as over a hundred hospices and over 500 care homes. Indeed, the Government’s own health scrutinty body sees LCP as a model for use across the health and care services.

The complaint from some doctors is some patients are being wrongly placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway procedure. One medic described it as a ‘death pathway’

Another doctor says he took some patients off the ‘path’ and they went on to live for significant amounts of time.

Most of us come into the word kicking and screaming, and we want to, figuratively speaking, go out the same way. That’s why I have never been a supporter of euthanasia.

Once the process of dying becomes procedural, or a life option, it will be applied by more and more degrees.

I can well imagine people in the future buying one-way tickets to Switzerland because they’ve simply had enough, can’t afford to live or maybe just don’t want to live any more.

Recently a terminally ill, youngish woman in Oregon, the only US state where euthanasia is legal, was told medical aid was unavailable to fund medicines that would add months to her life. Instead the health authority sent her their brochures on assisted dying.

While the LCP may have been devised with the very best of intentions, I somehow don’t trust a team of total strangers, albeit medics and nurses, to decide I need a gentle shove towards the end of my mortal coil.

In a time where people are living well into old age the cost on the NHS is rising. It will become more and more tempting to bump us off prematurely, rather than spend money keeping us going.

Time was when the family GP, often a lifelong friend, would know when it was time to administer that extra little bit of medicine to ease us on our way. Then Harold Shipman came along and spoiled it.

This is what one man wrote about her experience “My mother died in hospital.

They put her on their much-vaunted Liverpool Care Pathway. My abiding memory of this was a staff nurse reading from a crib-sheet as she explained what was happening to my mother. She all but ticked the boxes as she spoke. I feel I betrayed her by handing her over to those people.”

Tens of thousands of people are now dying The Liverpool Way’. Hardly likely to get the ageing population beating a path to this place, is it?

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DigSeptember 7th 2009.

I think more people should be bumped off early. Not too early mind. Just early. Maybe there should be categories of people who are ill but will recover. Useful and useless. If they fall into the useless caregory then it's time to give Peter Coyne a call.

AnonymousSeptember 7th 2009.

We don't like to think about dying, but it's an issue we should think about. I wasn't even aware of the LCP until I read this. Bit scary innit?

DigSeptember 7th 2009.

I'm pretty useless as well. Wonder what the prize is if I win...

AnonymousSeptember 7th 2009.

Don't think that because they are 'experts' that they always act in the best interests of the patient... This smacks of a money saving objective - sedate them so they can't scream in pain and beg to be relieved of their thirst and hunger. It's like something out of a sci-fi movie! Why not just be honest about it and shoot them, in fact stand them in a queue then you'll get a few with the one bullet!! Seriously though, we almost lost my beloved Dad last year because of the standards of 'care' he was receiving in hospital. He only recovered because we ranted, had him moved to a different ward and then got him the hell out of there as soon we could. He's now happy and well and still manages to do his little garden at 82 - and to think they'd essentially written him off - diabolical

Die or Let LiveSeptember 7th 2009.

Anyone going into hospital should have their own hand-made signs saying DO rescussitate!!!! It's a serious subject but it makes you think some of us will be bumped off too early. But if the 'experts' say it's time to go they must be right, mustn't they???

Dr HaroldSeptember 7th 2009.

Dig there is a competition for you to enter with a prize for baldies, just in case they are deemed amongst one of the less favoured categories by hairy doctors.

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