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Controversy over Liverpool Care Pathway
IT IS supposed to ease the last days or hours of a dying patient – but the Liverpool Care Pathway is a system under fire.
The pathway has been used at Basingstoke hospital since 2007, but it has been branded as “euthanasia by the back door” by critics, who say some patients are being starved and dehydrated without their relatives’ knowledge.
National headlines have claimed that hundreds of thousands of patients are being killed each year on the pathway, and a senior doctor, Patrick Pullicino, from the University of Kent, declared that the LCP was a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
Relatives of patients on the pathway have been speaking out recently in the national media with disturbing claims about loved ones being placed on the LCP without consent and sometimes when the patient is not dying. Following the media frenzy, professionals working in the field agreed to launch a review into how the system was working last year, but it was put on hold when ministers said it should be done independently.
That review has yet to start, although the Government is expected to announce details of it in the coming weeks.
The pathway is used in about 85 per cent of trusts across the country and is backed by a number of bodies, including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians, and the National Council for Palliative Care.
These groups, along with others, have published a consensus statement defending the LCP, saying that since the 1990s it has been helping to spread elements of the hospice model of care into other settings, such as hospitals, care homes and people’s homes.
The statement concludes: “We support the appropriate use of the Liverpool Care Pathway and make clear that it is not in any way about ending life, but rather about supporting the delivery of excellent end-of-life care.”
Around 45 per cent of patients who die at Basingstoke hospital have been placed on the pathway – around 275 patients each year – compared with around 30 per cent of all patients who die in hospitals nationwide. The average patient will die within 33 hours after being put on the LCP.