Mass Euthanasia in Britain?

A charge has been made that 11 men of varying ages, (none under 65) had their deaths helped along by being undernourished.

A CORONER is demanding a public inquiry into claims that 11 hospital patients were deliberately starved to death. He believes that it could be Britain’s first case of forced “mass euthanasia”.
Peter Ashworth, the coroner for Derby, will open an inquest later this year into the suspicious deaths at the city’s Kingsway hospital.

He considers the matter so serious that he has written to the Department of Health asking for the inquest to be superseded by a judicial inquiry with powers to investigate practices at the hospital.

There is now increasing concern across Britain about the way hospitals appear to be hastening the deaths of elderly patients. Police in Leeds and Hampshire are also looking into similar cases.

The 11 patients, all men aged between 65 and 93, died in the Rowsley ward for the elderly at Kingsway. A review of the cases, ordered by the coroner, found evidence that their deaths may have been speeded up by withholding sufficient food.

The allegations first surfaced after Jayne Drew, a healthcare assistant, alerted the hospital managers after the deaths of Simon Smith, 74, and Arthur Boddice, 81, in the summer of 1997.

Families of fellow patients at the hospital claimed that some staff had become so upset at seeing elderly people being starved that they had taken it upon themselves to feed them secretly.

One relative has described how it was distressing to see his father go without food. Andrew Hughson said his 75- year-old father, also called Andrew, would vainly stretch his hand towards meals being delivered to other patients.

“We kept being told that feeding him would be bad for his general health, and he was too frail to tell us otherwise,” he said.

This is a story to keep an eye on. It certainly seems compelling to me that in these Lenten and Easter seasons the issue that has come completely to the forefront, and seemingly will not abate, is the value and worth of human life, however weak or compromised, or old and ill.

Pope Paul VI was eerily prescient when he wrote Humanae Vitae – he drew the link from birth control to abortion to infanticide to euthanasia. I didn’t believe it for a long time. When I was a teenager, I remember thinking of it as mere Italian prudishness. But only forty years later, we have seen the establishment of the Culture of Death, and we can trace the tread. How quickly it unspooled!

Even in countries which are only recently embracing birth control, as in Ireland, we are seeing the immediate change of priorities, from family and stability, to materialism and worldliness.

And of course, some of this has been helped along by both the exorbitant cost of medical care in long-term facilities (let’s take out Grandma before our inheritance is eaten up by these fees), and on the other side by socialized medicine that has discouraged the best and the brightest from entering medicine. Socialism breeds mediocrity in everything it touches – it does not encourage excellence.

But mostly, this is a matter of the spirit. Where once the world understood the rightness of protecting innocent life and frail life – where thier dignity was affirmed by the world’s deference to them, things have turned upside down, and it is all exactly backwards.

President Bush said this January, at the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade that in order to end this societal unspooling, “we have to help change people’s hearts.” That wasn’t idle rhetoric. It is what must be done. You cannot appeal to the intellect on this issue, because the intellect is capable of admitting all sorts of “rationalizations” and obfuscations into an argument and the ego feels proud to have done so. This is a matter for the human heart. There is a war, between life and death. The battles are increasingly turbulent, and this war will be fought to its conclusion.

I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a, New American Bible)

Choose life. Choose with the heart.

Blogging will be light. Have a houseful of folks coming for supper, to celebrate a son’s birthday, (no, not Buster, but I have more to write on him, maybe tonight.) Have a good one!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Darrell

    “…feeding him would be bad for his general health”

    Now I know why the Democrats, and other members of the Left are so interested in what Europeans think and do. Affordable health care for all, but at a great price! All part of the same slippery slope. In the US we need to take these cases out of Probate court and treat them like the capital cases they really are.

    Have you seen Gunter von Hagens “Bodyworlds” exhibit yet? All part of the same devaluation of human life. Using real human beings as “art” is just another front in the long campaign. I saw how ‘respectfully’ teenagers and even younger kids treated these people. If they only knew. Maybe one day they will sell “plastinated” souvenirs for the kids to take home! There is nothing seen that can’t be duplicated with other materials. Materials that weren’t once someone’s beloved child.

  • MaxedOutMama

    It almost seems as if we create this problem by instituting the idea that society is obliged to pay for all reasonable healthcare costs. That means, of course, that society is forced to figure out which healthcare costs are reasonable, and sooner or later healthcare costs for the chronically ill, disabled or old come to be regarded as “unreasonable”, because the implicit choice is between saving a young/non-disabled person’s life with something fancy and exciting like an organ transplant or letting Granny just gradually tail off naturally.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I can certainly figure out why the disabled are so frantic. They know very well that if you put it to a vote they would not be the winners.

  • kimberley

    I’m just astonished. If my dad was reaching towards other patients (inmates?) meals and was obviously hungry I’d go nuclear on any hospital staffer who told me that he couldn’t eat. I’d make a nasty crack about England right now but after Terri Schiavo, it’s obvious that we Americans are no better.

  • Ken Summers

    “Socialism breeds mediocrity”? My goodness, you are an optimist, aren’t you?

  • Paladin

    These atrocities have been going on since the beginning of time. It’s only now possible for the outrage to be global. Keep shining the light on people who are making these bad decisions.

  • Grumpy Old Man

    I agree with much of what you say.

    However, I doubt there was a time when there was a “culture of life” in a complete sense. Consider the fate of “foundlings” in the 19th century, child labor, slavery, etc.

    No golden age that I’m aware of.

  • Mr.Atos

    Revisit Ambrose Bierce to witness how sardonic satire of one generation becomes the insidious reality of another. Posted at MySandmen. Anchoress linked.

    “My name is Boffer Bings. I was born of honest parents in one of the humbler walks of life, my father being a manufacturer of dog-oil and my mother having a small studio in the shadow of the village church, where she disposed of unwelcome babes. In my boyhood I was trained to habits of industry; I not only assisted my father in procuring dogs for his vats, but was frequently employed by my mother to carry away the debris of her work in the studio.” (From Oil of Dog)

  • bonnie

    Profound and courageous post, Anchoress! LeChaim!

    P.S. Your new digs are lovely, but I fear that I miss your photo in the habit!

  • TheAnchoress

    Bonnie – I miss me, too! But Blogs-about is really trying to help me, so hopefully I will be back in the habit, soon! :-)

  • Ellen

    King George V was deliberately given an overdose of morphine to speed his death so it could be reported in the morning press. The afternoon papers were considered too low class.

  • BigFire

    Ever since Dutch Parliament passes law allowing doctor assisted murder (suicide), elderly Dutch citizens who want to live have been afraid to go to either the doctors or hospitals for fear of getting put out of their misery. Afterall, Dutch doctors have been quietly killing off their elderly patients to ease their burden for years without retribution. The law (I believe passed in ’99 or 2000) allows greater legal protection for this kind of action.

  • Dave Justus

    The sad fact is though that health care must be rationed in some fashion, either directly by the Government through socialized programs or economically by individuals who can’t afford (or choose not to afford) care in capalist societies.

    I don’t like this fact, but it is a fact.

    Euthanasia of course was practiced by many primative cultures where lack of mobility would signil death for the entire group. We have a lot more luxery to care for the elderly and infirm, but this ability is not limitless. I don’t know what the best answer is, but it is a difficult problem.

  • stephanie

    50 years ago, my great grandmother lived in Madison, Wisconsin. She was elderly by those standards- though not by today’s standards, I don’t think. She’d been suffering dementia for a few years by then- not completely gone, you understand, just not all there- a little vague, a little confused. And she got sick. Pneumonia, I think. The doctor then recommended to my granparents that she not be treated. That they just let her go. And so they did. It happened “back then” too. Rather more commonly than today, if the people I know are to be believed.
    It’s sad. My grandfather on the other side died 5 years ago. He had pneumonia. He was sick, tired, in pain, and missed my grandma- he didn’t want any extraordinary means of saving his life. No respirator for a little while to let his lungs try and recover. So I sat in the hospital that last day. I fed him pineapple, and ice chips as his last dinner. I held his hand, and got the nurses when he complained about the trouble he was having breathing. He still refused the respirator. So I held his hand, called the rest of the family, and we said goodbye. As I type this, tears are dripping down my face. I still grieve, enormously. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely. Was it hard? Yes, and no. He was going to a better place. It was his time to exit stage right. But oh how I wish it hadn’t been sometimes.

  • MaxedOutMama

    Ah, Stephanie, I feel for you. It is so hard to let go of those we love.

    But there is a difference between rejecting medicine or a ventilator or an operation even if it will lead to death and leaving someone in a bed to starve to death. For one thing, if the person can recover from an illness they will, so there is a natural correction of any mistake – you are leaving room for a revival as well as death.

    These are all shades of things, but it frightens me how little distinction we make between them. If medical treatment is defined as feeding someone or giving them water, then we are all a couple of weeks from death.

    I know I personally would at some point reject antibiotics and the like. There is a point where I will want nature to take its course. But if my body has the strength to recover on its own, then that too will be nature taking its course. The other way we are deciding the course.

  • stephanie

    Not so very long ago, people died b/c we couldn’t feed them before feeding tubes and IVs. People die every minute of every day b/c they have no food.

  • TheAnchoress

    Stephanie, not very long ago people died because we didn’t have antibiotics. Should we not use them, if we can? Same with feeding tubes, I think.

  • Darrell

    Let’s not forget none of the recent cases were about “rationing” health care. Terri Schindler had a family willing and able to take her home to live her final days in a loving and caring environment. Spin all you want, but let’s not lose sight of the facts. Court-ordered starvation and dehydration is not the American Way…What’s so hard about that?