The Death Pathway

Let’s join the debate. Who in the healthcare profession likes killing people? I can think of a few prime examples, but I’m sure you’ll agree that this is certainly not the norm and most people would find the mere prospect of being involved with someones death – no matter how tangentally – abhorrent. I run Google Alerts. Lovely simple things that email you when a particular phrase is mentioned and I have quite a few of them going now. One of the first I set up many moons ago – actually, when the ConDems got in –  was for one phrase: ‘NHS’. With varying degrees of consistency I have perused through these results and kept up to date with the developments in healthcare in general. Now granted such a open ended query will generate some results that are quite wide of the mark, such as:

Still Time To Enter NHS Homecoming Parade; Lunch Available Friday

All national highways to be at least two-laned from now

More recently though, I have started to received a few more unsettling ones:

Sentenced to death on the NHS

I survived the death pathway

When should doctors embark upon the death pathway?

Doctors reported to police over use of controversial death pathway

Hospitals ‘paid millions to put patients on death pathway’

Wow! At first I thought it could be noise, a result that was wide of the mark but grabbing my attention, but no, it’s coming up with increasing frequency. But what is the Death Pathway? The Death Pathway is the new media term for the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), described on it’s website as pathway of care that is used to improve the quality of death. So that kind of informs why it’s being referred to as a death pathway because that’s essentially what it is. It’s purpose is to promoted a dignified death, certainly not to hasten someones demise. I personally find the implication that healthcare professionals are out to bump people off especially for the ‘rewards’   abhorrent.

Contrary to what’s stated in the articles the LCP doesn’t preclude the use of fluids, but medics experienced in the field argue;

Administering unnecessary fluids to a terminal patient can cause pulmonary oedema and breathlessness, hence stopping fluids can improve comfort.

So where does it come from? It’s apparently doctors that we have to that for this unsettling phrase. September 2nd 2009 the Telegraph published an article about a letter published the previous day.

Dying patients

A group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

With phrases such as:

“Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors have warned.”

and

“Patients who are allowed to become dehydrated and then become confused can be wrongly put on this pathway.”

This article is short on fact and quick on opinion. This article might as well be swiss cheese (What experise do these people have?). Fortunately, a quick search on BMJ.com reveals that aside from trying to incite public outrage, the torrent of bad press has made the LCP a hotly debated issue. I can only hope the interest morphs into improved patient outcomes, but we’ll see. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water on this one, eh?

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One thought on “The Death Pathway

  1. Pingback: Death Pathway 2: Return of the Controversy « The Not So Big Society

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