Let the sick and elderly choose how, where and when they want to die, says care home boss
Dr Chai Patel says elderly and terminally ill people are given too little say over circumstances of their death
Says they should be able to draw up a ‘living will’, which would allow them to lay out their wishes
Sue Ryder charity says many people face choice of hospital pain relief or the comfort of dying at home
By EMMA INNES
PUBLISHED: 09:42, 9 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:49, 9 July 2013
Terminally ill and elderly people should be given the chance to decide where and how they die, a leading care home boss has said.
Dr Chai Patel, who runs 230 UK care homes, says that while people are currently being given more and more choice about how they live their lives, they are still offered too little choice about how they die.
He believes too many people currently die in ‘completely impersonal surroundings’.
In his speech to the National Care Homes Congress today he will say that people should be given the opportunity to draw up a ‘living will’.
This would allow them to specify exactly how, where, and when, they want to die.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Dr Patel believes the introduction of ‘living wills’ could eventually lead to the establishment of euthanasia clinics in the UK.
Dr Patel, who used to head up the Priory Clinics but is now head of HC-One, told the paper that too many elderly people are currently dying on hospital wards rather than in the comfort of their own homes because they are vulnerable to official processes.
He said: ‘When you look at severe, chronic conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, where the progressive nature of it is going to be so dreadful and everyone knows what the natural progression is, then why can’t we make a grown-up decision about how we want to go?
‘In the past 100 years we have found so many ways to live and we live well, but actually we die really badly.’
Dr Patel’s comments come at a time when the number of people in England over the age of 90 is predicted to increase by 146 per cent over the next 20 years.
His views have been supported by the charity Sue Ryder which provides end of life care to terminally ill people.
In a new report, the charity argues that people approaching the end of their lives should not have to face the ‘unacceptable trade-off’ of choosing whether to die at home without pain medication or in hospital where they can access the drugs.
More than three fifths of people polled by the charity and think tank Demos said they wanted to die at home and 78 per cent said pain relief was a top priority for them.
But only 27 per cent of the 2,000 people across the UK who were questioned felt that home was a place where they could be pain-free during their final days.
Paul Woodward, chief executive of Sue Ryder, said: ‘We are concerned that government and decision-makers are using “dying at home” as a proxy for quality. This is not good enough. Dying at home does not always guarantee a good death.
‘We need to start talking about how people want to die, not just where. Without a clear understanding of what people really want when it comes to care at the end of their lives, we can’t determine whether or not existing support meets their needs.
‘Everyone deserves a pain-free death, in the place of their choosing and to be surrounded by loved ones.’