Patrick Pullicino, a professor of clinical neurosciences at the United Kingdom's University of Kent, has some disturbing news for terminally ill patients within the U.K.'s healthcare system: it is that up to 130,000 patients may have been killed before their time.
The Daily Mail reports Pullicino saying the Liverpool Care Pathway, a protocol doctors can use when patients are not expected to recover which he likens to a "death pathway," was used on 29 percent of the 450,000 people who die in National Health Services hospitals each year.
According to the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute, LCP is "used at the bedside to drive up sustained quality of the dying in the last hours and days of life." A patient's/family member's guide to LCP states that this pathway could involve the following: stopping any medication that is no longer helpful or prescribing new medication; stopping unnecessary testing; and, depending on the situation, stopping administration of food and water.
According to a healthcare provider's guide, LCP has been recommended in several prominent papers and by organizations throughout the 2000s. Before enacting LCP, a "multidisciplinary team" evaluates the patient's situation and all the possible options. If the patient is "diagnosed as dying" then LCP can be enacted after communication the diagnosis to all those involved.
Pullicino though has said that too often patients could live longer before they are put on LCP, citing the claims that they were within their last hours and days as "palpably false."
Here's an example Pullicino provided to the Daily Mail:
In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift.
Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP.
"I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance," he said.
"His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family," he said.
The patient’s extra 14 months of life came at considerable cost to the NHS and the taxpayer, Professor Pullicino indicated.
He said he needed extensive support with wheelchair, ramps and nursing.
After 14 months the patient was admitted to a different hospital with pneumonia and put on the LCP. The man died five hours later.
To Pullicino, the lack of evidence used in some cases for initiating LCP makes it an "assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway." Pullicino said that predicting someone's last days is scientifically impossible.
The Daily Mail reports that Pullicino is not alone in his concern for LCP. Three years ago, it states, other prominent professors and healthcare professionals said LCP was a "backdoor" for euthanasia.
The Daily Mail does note a spokesperson within the Department of Health saying they don't recognize any of the figures cited by Pullicino.
Life News and National Right to Life News, among other pro-life sites, have reported on the "shocking" claims made by Pullicino. Life News reports American bioethicist Wesley Smith saying this only serves to who that the U.K.'s National Health Service is collapsing and is "only going to get worse."
Featured image via Alex@Faraway/Flickr.