NHS ‘Pathway To Death’ Program Revealed
Britain’s National Health System (NHS) has come under fire, after a plan to financially reward hospitals for killing terminally-ill patients was revealed.
Under the program, known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, trusts, which oversee the finances of a group of hospitals, can deny food and hydration to dying patients. Between £12 and £20 million (US$20 – US$32.3 million) has already been paid out to almost two-thirds of NHS trusts that have “hit targets” in the program, reports the UK Telegraph.
The figures, obtained by the paper under the Freedom of Information Act, show that about 85-percent of trusts have now adopted the regime, branded as the NHS ‘Pathway to Death’ by critics.
According to the Daily Mail, some hospitals have been set on targets requiring between a third and two-thirds of all deaths should be on the LCP program. At many hospitals, more than 50-percent of all patients who died had been placed on the LCP program. In one case, the proportion of foreseeable deaths on the pathway was almost nine out of 10.
The LCP program was conceived as a set of procedures to ease the suffering in patients dying within hours or a few days. These involve the withdrawal from treatments the tending doctor felt were no longer needed, or would do more harm than good. The original protocols required patients, and if possible, their families, should be consulted first.
But a number of cases have now come up where patients’ families were never consulted, or even told that food and hydration was being denied to their loved ones.
In some cases, patients who were put on the pathway were never terminally ill and went on to fully recover.
Developments in the LCP program have raised concerns that a similar problem could show up in America’s Affordable Health Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
A provision for an end-of-life “death panel,” brought to light by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, already exists in the legislation passed in early 2009. It calls for the rationing of medical care based on age and other qualifiers, with a general goal to make Americans more like Europeans who passively accept “hopeless diagnoses.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to undo Obamacare by executive order on the first day he becomes president.
The British Department of Health has insisted the payments made under the LCP program could help ensure that people were “treated with dignity in their final days and hours,” but added it was launching an investigation into the charges.