A senior consultant of England's National Health Service (NHS) alleged earlier this week that thousands of elderly lives were being prematurely ended in an effort to free up hospital beds for more patients.
Professor Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, said Monday at the Royal Society of Medicine in London that British doctors are taking advantage of the country's "Liverpool Care Pathway" as a method equivalent to euthanasia for the elderly. Euthanasia is illegal in Britain.
The plan, which was created at the Marie Curie Hospice in London in the 1990s and recommended to the NHS in 2004 and used by doctors throughout the country, is implemented when a doctor decides there is no more hope for a patient to continue surviving.
The plan involves withdrawal of nourishment, including food, water, unnecessary testing or medicine, and usually involves the death of the patient within 33 hours.
As reported by the Daily Mail, use of this "death pathway" has resulted in the deaths of 130,000 patients since it was created, being used on 29 percent of the 450,000 people who pass away in NHS hospitals every year.
According to the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool, "The LCP is an integrated care pathway that is used at the bedside to drive up sustained quality of the dying in the last hours and days of life."
The Institute goes on to add: "The LCP is not the answer to all our needs for care of the dying but is a step in the right direction."
Pullicino argues, however, that if Britain is using LCP, it may as well legalize euthanasia for the elderly.
"If we accept the Liverpool Care Pathway we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths," he said during his speech, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Pullicino also supplied multiple examples of him taking patients off of LCP and them surviving for several months, even years, following the LCP removal.
Pullicino also said in his speech that there is not enough positive evidence to support the use of LCP in Britain, and "predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically."
In response to Pullicino's argument, Dr. Robert Lefever wrote a piece in the Daily Mail entitled "Killing patients who are difficult to manage is wrong, but who would want to go on living as a vegetable?"
In the response piece, Lefever wrote: "I myself would not wish to go on living unless I have reasonable control of my body and full control of my mind," adding "just because something medical can be done, it does not follow that it should or must be done."
The Department of Health told the Daily Mail that LCP is used very judiciously and is not a method of euthanasia.
"The Liverpool Care Pathway is not euthanasia and we do not recognize these figures," the Department of Health said, adding, "A patient's condition is monitored at least every four hours and, if a patient improves, they are taken off the Liverpool Care Pathway and given whatever treatments best suit their new needs."