A scandal is breaking out in England over revelations that the National Health Service has been implementing a policy of routinely–and apparently without consulting either the patient or the family–cutting off intravenous food and fluids for patients deemed to be close to death, instead just pumping them up with sedative drugs until they die. From the London Telegraph, Sentenced to death on the NHS:
Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.
But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn.
As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter [from concerned physicians] states. . . .
“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.
“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”
The issue being raised here is that the diagnoses of being close to death can be wrong, with the sedation preventing doctors from seeing signs of improvement. But I don’t see how denying a patient food and water can ever be right. Even if the plan is to just “let the patient die,” the active step of withdrawing food and water goes beyond that and seems especially cruel. The patient is allowed to die of thirst and starvation. How does that even rise to the questionable standard of “mercy killing”?