There’s an explosive story out today in the Daily Mail over in the UK claiming that Britain’s National Health Service euthanizes 130,000 elderly patients a year. This claim doesn’t issue from some loopy former governor of an arctic province; it comes from professor Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent. He made this claim in a speech to the Royal Society of Medicine in London. From the Daily Mail:
NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.
Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.
He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.
It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.
It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.
There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.
Nick Eberstadt emailed me his thoughts:
The estimate of 130,000 euthanasia deaths is clearly way high—but it looks as if the number may very well run into the thousands annually.
Can we *really* be sure this will not happen in America if the new health care legislation is fully implemented?
The British case needs to be examined very carefully, I think, by all sides in the current US health care debates…
Over to you, Supreme Court.