NHS Genocide sentenced grandmother to death through the Liverpool Care Pathway
Family ‘not told’ grandmother was put on Liverpool Care Pathway
Doctors put a dying grandmother on a controversial ‘death pathway’ without telling her family, they are claiming.
By Stephen Adams, Medical Correspondent
5:52PM BST 16 Oct 2012
Mary Cooper, 79, died a few days after being put on the Liverpool Care Pathway at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
The pathway, originally designed to ease the suffering of terminally ill cancer patients in their very last days, is being used more and more widely in NHS hospitals.
The idea behind the LCP is to give patients a ‘good death’ by avoiding unnecessary and burdensome medical interventions.
However, there have been accusations it hastens death because it can involve the removal of hydration and nutrition.
Mrs Cooper’s husband Roy, a retired train driver, said doctors only told him and his children after they had placed her on the pathway, by which stage her condition had worsened so much that she could not recover. The hospital insists the matter was discussed – and agreed – with him.
Mr Cooper, 79, said: “They never told me about the plan and no-one explained it to me. To me it felt like she was put on to death row and left to die in a side room.
“I would never have let her go to hospital if I knew what I do now.
“After finding out she was on the pathway, we offered to take her home to die but was told we couldn’t.”
Mrs Cooper, a diabetic, was admitted to hospital on June 19 after collapsing with low blood sugar levels. The collapse was caused by her not eating properly, because she was taking antibiotics for a foot infection. The medication had reduced her appetite.
After five weeks in hospital her condition began to deteriorate. Doctors then mentioned the LCP as an option, according to her family, but they insist they were not actually told she was placed on it in her final days.
Mr Cooper said: “They tried to explain about this pathway to my daughters, but I had no idea what they were going on about. I was never invited into an office to have it explained to me.
“If they had properly explained what they had wanted, I would not have agreed to it.”
Mrs Cooper died on August 13. The causes of death were recorded as heart attack, pulmonary oedema, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease.
Maxine Richardson, one of the couple’s four children, stayed by her mother’s bedside for the last two weeks of her life.
She said: “When we were told she was on the pathway plan, they said there was nothing more they could do for her.
“They said they would make her as comfortable as possible and free from pain, but they really didn’t explain what was actually going to happen.”
Some critics of the pathway, including a small number of doctors, even claim it is being used to free up beds, although such claims are resoundly rejected by hospitals.
Mr Cooper said: “I got the feeling the quicker she went the better because it would stop them looking after her for another week.
“I really don’t think it is right for doctors to play God and put people on this plan.”
A spokesman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital denied doctors did not agree the matter with Mr Cooper before his wife was put on the pathway.
He said: “Before decisions of this kind are made there is a full discussion with the family before an agreement is reached. Mrs Cooper’s notes clearly show that this was discussed with her husband at the time.”
He added: “The important point is that it is a care pathway, not a lack of care pathway.”
Last week a man whose mother died after being put on the pathway by doctors at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, asked police to investigate.
Paul Tulloch, of Biggleswade, Beds., asked Bedfordshire Police to look into the death of Jean Tulloch, 83. He claims her death was hastened by doctors’ decision to place her on the LCP for 30 hours, before he insisted they take her off it. NHS Lothian said it could not comment on individual cases if a police inquiry was underway.
Last year a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that in four per cent of cases, family members were not told a loved-one had been put on the pathway.
But that figure hid “patchy” performance, said Simon Chapman, from the National Council for Palliative Care.
In a quarter of hospitals, relatives were not told in a third of cases. In one unnamed hospital, they were not informed in a half of cases.
Earlier this week Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, insisted that doctors always told families.
He said: “I have looked carefully at the Liverpool Care Pathway and I support it.
“It is absolutely essential that it is properly communicated and understood by the family, and done in complete partnership with them. I would call for a review to ensure that that happens in every instance.”
At the beginning of October, 20 medical bodies including the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Nursing, released a “consensus statement” that no single doctor should make the decision to place a patient on the pathway.
The most senior doctor available should make the decision with input from at least one other member of medical staff, they said, because it was “not always easy to tell whether someone is close to death”.
Proponents argue the LCP is not necessarily a one way street and that sometimes doctors admit they have made a wrong judgement and take someone off it. However, that only happens in about four per cent of cases.