Most of us do not know when, where or how death will come – so the default is to leave it to the wisdom of the medical establishment. A “doctors know best” attitude. Yet doctors, it seems, don’t trust doctors when it comes to a good death.
A survey conducted by Pulse, the UK’s leading medical weekly magazine, found almost half of GPs do not trust the NHS to give them a ‘good death.’ The poll also revealed that only 36% were confident in NHS end-of-life care.
The startling survey also points to rising concern among patients over the Liverpool Care Pathway. Almost one in five GPs report an increase in the number of patients expressing concern over themselves, or a relative, being put on the pathway in the last year. The UK Government launched an independent review into the use of the palliative care pathway after allegations that patients were being put on it without their consent or their families’ knowledge. Numerous media stories have suggested that elderly patients and tiny infants have been refused food and water to speed up death and that neither they, nor relatives have even been told that doctors consider their case to be terminal. This is certainly not the sort of ‘euthanasia’ that Exit advocates. Our concern is only partly about the pitfalls of achieving a peaceful death by such means: the very fact that patients are neither made aware of the intention nor given the opportunity to make a conscious decision is the very opposite of the ‘voluntary’ in ‘voluntary euthanasia.’
Fifteen percent of GPs have been asked about assisted suicide by their patients in the last 12 months. Legislation lags behind common sense and the wishes of ordinary, responsible people. Patients know that doctors cannot guarantee a good death. Sales of Five Last Acts are booming – not that people want to rush out and end their life, far from it: but they want the reassurance that goes with being in control.
GPs to be consulted on support for legalisation of assisted dying
Review on LCP launched
A ‘one way ticket to the grave’ (Mail Online)
Children placed on controversial ‘death pathway’ (Telegraph)
New book on allowing children to die (Exit author)
The NHS guide on end-of-life care
Government website on death & bereavement
National end-of-life care programme
“I’m scared of dying badly” says Terry Pratchett