Thursday, 16 February 2012

Liverpool Care Pathway – And The Fallibilities of Diagnosis

One-way path to death
Veronica Stabbins

My mother, aged 99 and living in a nursing home, was taken as an emergency to a hospital A & E department with acute respiratory distress. My brother and I arrived soon after. The doctor told us there was no help for her and that she would probably only live for about two hours.

Obviously unwell, but responsive, she was transferred to a stark room and her saline drip taken down. A nurse wanted to remove her oxygen mask, but she insisted on keeping it, as it helped her breathing.

Another nurse was about to give her an injection of morphine, but I challenged this as my mother was not complaining of pain. The nurse said it was normal protocol.

In answer to our questions, we were told that Mother had been placed on the “care pathway of the dying” and that she would not be given any food or water but would have regular sedation.

We asked if she could be transferred to a private ward to be more comfortable in her final hours. This was arranged promptly. Her physician confirmed she was indeed terminally ill and no medication would be appropriate, only care. To everyone’s surprise, she began to improve and after a week could take sips of water and food.

Mother lived for a year, visited daily by family and friends. The highlight of her “extra” year was her 100th birthday, when she entertained 40 people to a tea party.

She would not have lived that extra year, had she been denied water and sedated in hospital last year.

This death culture is now well entrenched in our NHS and beyond, spreading its tentacles worldwide. The LCP is no longer merely a national scandal; its scope has crossed continents and oceans. It is a self-fulfilling tool to 'diagnose' death.

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