As the House of Lords prepares to debate Lord Falconer's assisted suicide bill, a worthy reflection on the death culture presents a cogent argument for reform of the system and why euthanasia & assisted suicide should be rejected.
From Irene Ogrizek's blog:
Dr. Rita Pal is an independent medical journalist based in the UK. Between 1999-2007, she worked as a psychiatrist in the National Health Service UK.
Her reflections on a death culture within the NHS — a system much like Canada’s — confirms what many of us have already suspected: the elderly, disabled and disenfranchised are being provided with a very different kind of care. Our nation’s media is not publishing information like this. Perhaps the Canadian Medical Protection Association, a legal entity that often threatens and intimidates media outlets, is the reason why.
Here are my precise reasons for rejecting Bill 52, which will allow euthanasia in Quebec. I disagree with our premier, Philippe Couillard, who also happens to be a neurosurgeon. He says we can trust all healthcare practitioners — a very dubious claim.
THE stark realities of life and death in the NHS were revealed last week. New research showed that ending life unethically was common practice amongst many doctors.
Not too long ago I was an idealistic junior doctor, fresh from medical school and eager to provide the best possible treatment for my patients. After all, I wanted to save lives to the best of my ability. But as time passed, I learned the shocking reality of health professionals with a taste for playing God.
My idealistic values have little place in today’s NHS. Hospitals are so under-staffed and under-funded that they become treatment factories condoning a ‘survival of the fittest’ policy. The elderly, disabled, confused – those who are least able to form a rapport with doctors – become an intolerable burden on an over-stretched NHS.
Dr. Harold Shipman. The exception or the rule? Given what many of us have witnessed, this is a rational and not hysterical question. Why isn’t Canada’s media helping?
Before long, a consultant (specialist) will make the decision to withdraw treatment in these patients’ ‘best interests’. The decision is actually based on an assessment of the patient’s quality of life versus the potential resource consumption.
Unfortunately, the assessment is rarely either detailed or objective. Doctors are so busy and tired that they make subjective decisions influenced by their own culture, upbringing and opinions. If the patient’s condition does not permit a quality of life that the doctor would personally find acceptable, it is assumed that the life is not worth living and treatment is withdrawn. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) decisions are equated with stopping basic care, active treatment, withholding treatment and prescribing with a side-effect of decreasing respiration.
These decisions are often unknown to relatives.
I hear the justification of ‘best interests’ echoed through every NHS ward. I often turn away and wonder how death could possibly be considered in the patient’s ‘best interest’. Clearly, the NHS today lacks humanity, integrity and the ability to care about the most vulnerable members of society. The simple concept of assisting the ill and frail has been lost in favour of balance sheets, targets and star ratings. How much is a life worth?
Who is culled in our healthcare system? The wealthy who live next door to doctors, or the disenfranchised who don't? A class system exists in Canada whether we accept it or not.
Who is culled in our healthcare system? The wealthy who live next door to doctors, or the disenfranchised who don’t? A class system exists in Canada whether we accept it or not.
As a junior doctor, I found this appalling situation impossible to accept. I became a doctor not to end lives, but to save them, and to help patients make their own choices. Instead, during my time in general medicine, I spent many sleepless nights agonising over the decisions made by consultants, racked with guilt at being an unwilling part of this unethical decision-making process. I often felt that their behaviour as doctors was nothing more than involuntary manslaughter.
The practice has gone on for decades, passed on as accepted practices from one generation of doctors to another – so much so that there is a sense of indifference towards the simple values of patient care.
However, just as lives can be ended covertly, so similar methods can be used to save them. Clever under-cover medicine is something that many doctors do to thwart a consultant’s deadly decisions. Patients are transferred to other establishments quickly before DNRs take effect, medication reinstated and given in one-off doses before the consultant has time to notice.
Perhaps my most rewarding experience was the sight of an elderly lady sitting up in bed and putting on her lipstick just two weeks after a consultant had written her off.
“Doctor, do I look pretty?” she asked. I smiled, hiding my knowledge of my colleague’s decision to let her die. “You look fantastic and not a day over 60,” I told her.
Saving lives must always be the doctor’s first role.
New figures reveal that 3,000 patients were helped to die by doctors breaking the law in the UK in 2006, and 192,000 people had their deaths accelerated by medics.