Terminally ill grandmother 'left to starve' by doctors
Hazel Fenton, an 80-year-old grandmother who was placed under a controversial care plan and left to “starve to death” after doctors identified her as being terminally ill, only recovered after the intervention of her daughter.
|Photo: ANDREW HASSON|
10:30PM BST 11 Oct 2009
Mrs Fenton, from East Sussex, is still alive and “happy” nine months after doctors declared she would only survive for days, withdrew her antibiotics and denied her artificial feeding, her daughter, Christine Ball, said.
“Without my persistence and pressure I know my mother would be dead now,” she added.
Mrs Fenton, a former private school house mother, had been placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) scheme, which was originally developed as a way to care for cancer patients towards the end of their lives.
However, there has been recent criticism that not only cancer patients but others with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under the NHS scheme.
Last month six prominent British doctors and health care professionals wrote to The Daily Telegraph, expressing concern that some patients were being wrongly judged as close to death.
Under NHS guidance introduced in England, medical staff can withdraw fluid and drugs from dying patents and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away. But this approach can also mask signs of improvement, it has been argued.
Miss Ball, who had been looking after her mother before she was admitted to the Conquest hospital, Hastings, East Sussex, on Jan 11, said she had to fight hospital staff for weeks before her mother was taken off the plan and given artificial feeding.
Miss Ball, 42, a carer, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, said: “My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”
Mrs Fenton was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. Although Mrs Ball acknowledged that her mother was very ill she was “astonished” when a junior doctor told her she was going to be placed on the plan to “make her more comfortable” in her last days.
On Jan 19, Mrs Fenton’s 80th birthday, Mrs Ball said her mother had lost “an awful lot of weight” but was feeling better, and told her she “didn’t want to die”.
But it took another four days to persuade doctors to give her artificial feeding, Miss Ball said.
Mrs Ball said the fight to save her mother had been made harder by the Mental Capacity Act. “I was told that we had no rights, and food and hydration were classed as treatment, which meant they had the right to withhold feeding. It gave a doctor the power to play god with my mother’s life,” she said.
Mrs Fenton is now being looked after in a nursing home near her daughter’s home.
A spokesman for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Patients’ needs are assessed before they are placed on the [plan]. Daily reviews are undertaken by clinicians whenever possible.”