Death Panels After All?

Prof. Patrick Pullicino

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.

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