Assigned Reading: Sentenced to Death on the NHS
(FROM: U.K. Telegraph)
The scheme, called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), was designed to reduce patient suffering in their final hours.
Developed by Marie Curie, the cancer charity, in a Liverpool hospice it was initially developed for cancer patients but now includes other life threatening conditions.
It was recommended as a model by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government’s health scrutiny body, in 2004.
It has been gradually adopted nationwide and more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England currently use the system.
Under the guidelines the decision to diagnose that a patient is close to death is made by the entire medical team treating them, including a senior doctor.
They look for signs that a patient is approaching their final hours, which can include if patients have lost consciousness or whether they are having difficulty swallowing medication.
However, doctors warn that these signs can point to other medical problems.
Patients can become semi-conscious and confused as a side effect of pain-killing drugs such as morphine if they are also dehydrated, for instance.
“. . . the decision to diagnose that a patient is close to death is made by the entire medical team treating them, including a senior doctor.”
Oh — you mean, like a panel? Granted, this is a medical team and not a cabal of bureaucrats, but the idea behind it is the same.
Regardless of whether health care reform brings about a government-funded, government-staffed and government-run “public option” or a government-funded, government-staffed and government-run co-op, the government will still always be looking for ways to cut health care costs. Unfortunately, the only place to cut health care costs over the course of a normal patient’s life is at the end of their life.
The bill currently working its way through Congress provides for end-of-life counseling for patients. Not a problem in itself, as end-of-life counseling is darned near essential to provide aging patients with information. The problem here, however, is that the end-of-life counseling provision in H.R. 3200 is located in a section devoted not to providing patients with needed information, but to cutting costs. According to the Washington Post, the section in which the end-of-life counseling provision occurs is “in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones . . . If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to ‘bend the curve’ on health-care costs?”
People on the left can poke fun at the Sarah Palin-derived “death panel” moniker all they like — jeering and pointing fingers, however, does not take away from the fact that provisions for guiding aging patients through end of life decisions are provided for in the context of cutting costs. And, as we see in Britain, those decisions may not always be in the best interest of the patients.