A victim, rather than a patient?
ULTIMATELY we all have to die. There are no exceptions. And one might think, therefore, that there would be considerable interest as to how one might expect to die and how one's passing from this earth might be best managed.
Yet to the contrary, it seems, there is almost a conspiracy of silence. If, as a reader's letter published on October 20 claims, the Liverpool Care Pathway is the best (only?) available way to go, fatal accidents apart, then why has the public had this process, practised now for many years, only recently explained? And why haven't we all been allowed some input to this idea, long before we become incapable of letting our wishes be known? Surely, if the patient has never, at any point, been consulted in the matter, then he/she becomes a victim, rather than a patient?
It is all very well for those who raise this subject to be dismissed with soothing talk of "excellent palliative care". While I am sure that most hospices can provide this, what of the majority of us who die on a busy NHS ward, or in isolation at home? The LCP can be many days in taking effect, during which time there should be two-hourly turning of the body to prevent bed sores, and moisturising/cleansing of the mouth every four hours throughout day and night. It is also quite possible that the dying on this "pathway" are aware of being spoken to and comforted by those at the bedside.
How many hospital wards can be guaranteed to provide this very high standard of care, and how many relatives are free from all other obligations, and the need for sleep, to sit through many days and nights at their dying loved one's side?
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It is currently considered illegal for a terminally ill patient to request a lethal injection which could be administered at a time when their nearest and dearest could be there to hold their hand and exchange fond farewells, to be followed by their painless, dignified, speedy departure. Yet it is now, apparently, quite legal, for doctors to decide it is time for you to die, and without consultation with the patient, ensure death by the slow process of dehydration.
Your previous correspondent spoke of people being scared by discussion of how best we might die. Surely it is more frightening to leave the matter undiscussed as it is now, leaving us denied the possibility of a quick death by our own choice, yet only too likely to be condemned, instead, to a slow death by someone else's choice?