Terrifying article on front page of today's Telegraph. It reports that tens of thousands of patients with terminal illnesses are being put on a 'death pathway' without their families being told. The Liverpool Care Pathway requires doctors who feel that a patient is reaching the final days of life, to withdraw food and drink after consultation with next of kin. This is an area of the greatest possible sensitivity, and it does not bear thinking about that this should ever happen without discussion with the patient's family. In my opinion, there should always be the added safeguard of a second opinion - completely disconnected with the patient's doctor. The Report claims that 2500 families were not informed when the 'death pathway' was activated. If true, this would be a shocking scandal - warranting a full scale inquiry.
Palliative care is an increasingly important area, as our medical knowledge extends life. More and more people will be reaching a stage of frailty when they might already have died in the past. I perfectly accept that deciding not to force feed suffering terminally ill patients, and helping them cope with the final days with sedation is humane and proper. But safeguards are absolutely crucial. No patient, should ever be put on the Liverpool Care Pathway, without both an independent second opinion and consultation with next of kin. We really should get to a position where any doctor who does not act according the proper rules should be suspended.
I believe it is time that Parliament discussed the issue of the proper way to help people at the end of life. While 'assisted suicide' must remain illegal, there must be a 100% safe approach to proper palliative care. A civilised society requires nothing less.