Here's a headline from The Daily Record of February 01, 2011 -
Death row drug fed to dying Scottish pensioners
The report is by Lachlan Mackinnon, and is as follows:
A DRUG given to US Death Row prisoners is being used on dying old folk in Scotland's hospitals.
Medics use the sedative midazolam as part of a highlycontroversial "pathway to death" care plan for people judged by doctors to be in the last hours of their lives.
But patients' leaders warned yesterday that the widespread use of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) in Scotland's NHS is robbing pensioners of the chance of life.
They claim that, for some old folk, being put on the LCP is effectively a death sentence.
And research has found that many doctors decided to put patients on the pathway WITHOUT the consent of their loved-ones.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, told the Record: "The LCP can be used to bring patients' lives to a premature end.
"We have patients on our records who should be dead but are not. Their families had to fight to get them appropriate treatment.
"If the relatives had not had power of attorney, it would have been 'ta ta' to the patients. And we're convinced this is only the tip of the iceberg.
"How many people's lives have been taken that should have been here today?"
"We're concerned to hear about cases where patients have been given drugs used on Death Row without properly consulting the patient or their family.
"Doctors are meant to save lives, not take them. If they do, that's murder."
Watt 's fears were echoed by angry daughter Patricia MacGillivray, who believes she and her family saved her dad John's life in 2009 by insisting that he be taken off midazolam.
Patricia, 44, said she was told by staff at Perth Royal Infirmary that John, now 80, was at death's door after a suspected stroke.
But she claims her dad started to improve after he accidentally knocked the line out of his arm that was pumping the drugs into his body.
And she says he recovered and went home after the family ordered doctors to stop giving him the sedatives.
John is still alive and well nearly two years later. And Patricia said: "What 's happening in our hospitals. is euthanasia by the back door, and society needs to wake up to it.
"People must ask questions when their loved-one is in hospital. They must ask, 'What's that you're giving them? Is there any alternative?' "This issue affects every single household in the land.
"My dad is lovely and enjoys life with his family. It terrifies him to think about what happened to him.
"He was horrified when we told him about it and insists he's never going back in to hospital."
MSP Margo Macdonald, who has fought for the rights of terminally ill patients, is also deeply concerned about the use of LCP.
She said: "People haven't got a clue about it.
"There's a suspicion, among a lot of elderly people in particular, that they lose control over their own wellbeing if they go into care."
The LCP was designed by Marie Curie Cancer Care to help hospice staff make the deaths of patients as comfortable as possible. It got its name because it was developed at a hospice in Liverpool .
The LCP can involve a decision to stop giving the patient food and f luids. And many pat ients are cont inuously sedated, with drugs including midazolam, until they die.
Midazolam also goes by the brand names Versed, Dormicum and Hypnovel. It's given to US Death Row inmates half an hour before execution in a bid to calm them down, and vets also use it to knock out animals.
Supporters of the LCP, including the Scottish Government, argue that it is a humane and well thought-out way to make the dying comfortable at the end of life.
Crisis Ministers told all Scotland's health boards in 2008 that use of LCP was "good practice".
Audit Scotland found that year that LCP was being used in acute hospitals. in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Forth Valley, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Orkney. Ayr shire and Arran and Dumfries and Gal loway were using it in all community hospitals., and Orkney and Tayside in all NHS hospices.
But some senior doctors fear that patients who could recover are wrongly being put on LCP. And they say that once people are on the "pathway to death", the drugs they are given will mask any signs that they are getting better.
Professor Peter Millard of London University, who specialises in the care of the elderly, is one of the experts to have raised concerns.
He accused health chiefs in 2009 of causing "a national crisis in care" with what he called their "tickbox approach to the management of death" .
The professor added: "It's possible that what's going on could be seen as backdoor euthanasia.
"A national wave of discontent is building, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."
Professor Millard spoke of his fears that patients on the LCP were being "terminally" sedated.
And he claimed that cost was increasingly a factor in the treatment given to old people in the days before death.
He said: "We're not discussing how we care for old people - we're just discussing how we pay for them.
"The Government is rolling out palliative care, which is helping people die happy. What we should be doing is rolling out support to help them to live."
Ministers say doctors should talk to patients' families before putting them on the LCP.
But an audit of 155 NHS hospitals. in England in 2008 found that one in four families were not even told when their relative was placed on the pathway .
These figures alarm campaigners like Margaret Watt, who claim the use of LCP in our health service is not being properly managed.
And she fears the growing emphasis on LCP and other forms of palliative care could make it easier for rogue doctors to play God with patients' lives.
Watt said: "The pathway is not properly policed and is open to exploitation. We are extremely concerned we could end up with another Harold Shipman."
Margo Macdonald has similar fears.
She said: "Because of the experience of Shipman, no one should think it's being in any way hysterical for the Scotland Patients Association, who have a proven track record, or any family to draw attention to practices they do not completely understand or are not explained to them."
The vast majority of dying patients in Scotland's hospitals. get good care.
But the concerns over LCP will add to the anger of grieving relatives like Alex Chapman, who lost wife Marion last April after she went in to Monklands Hospital in Airdrie.
Marion, 58, died of pneumonia after a severe chest infection.
But Alex, 66, accused staff of failing to properly care for his wife. And he claimed: "They had decided they were not going to revive her if she stopped breathing. Who are they to do that without asking permission?"
Nhs Lanarkshire said they could not comment on individual cases but were committed to effective and safe treatment for all their patients.
The Scottish Government last night defended the NHS over its use of LCP.
A spokeswoman said: "We recognise the LCP as one of a number of ways to make sure people get the most appropriate palliative and end-of-life care.
"It aims to make people as comfortable as possible, offering psychological and spiritual care and family support.
"Palliative care teams use their expertise and judgment to recognise when a patient is nearing the end of life.
"At the heart of the pathway is taking the patient's wishes into account about what kind of treatment they want to get, how much and until what stage.
"Every aspect of a patient's care covered by the pathway is assessed on a daily basis.
"Decisions made by staff in collaboration with family members are based on clinical and ethical needs."
The report may be seen at