Ending life support: Christian doctor criticises court ruling

Ending life support: Christian doctor criticises court ruling July 30, 2018

Legal permission will no longer be needed to end life support for patients in a permanent vegetative state when relatives and doctors agree it should be turned off, the UK’s highest court has ruled.
According to the Telegraph, the Supreme Court today (Monday) upheld a ruling that a man with an extensive brain injury should be allowed to die without his family going before a judge.
It means it will now be easier to withdraw food and liquid to allow such patients to die – when doctors and families and doctors are in agreement – without applying to the Court of Protection.
Campaign Director for the Care Not Killing Alliance, Dr Peter Saunders – who is also a leading light in the Christian Medical Fellowship and the homophobic Coalition for Marriage – today hit out at the decision.
In a press release, Care Not Killing said the ruling will affect up to 24,000 patients in the UK with permanent vegetative state (PVS) and minimally conscious state (MCS), meaning they can now be effectively starved and dehydrated to death if the medical staff and relatives agree that this is in their “best interests”.

People with PVS (awake but not aware) and MCS (awake but only intermittently or partially aware) can breathe without ventilators, but need to have food and fluids by tube (clinically assisted nutrition and hydration or CANH).

These patients are not imminently dying and with good care can live for many years. Some may even regain awareness. But if CANH is withdrawn, then they will die from dehydration and starvation within two or three weeks.

Until last year all cases of PVS and MCS have had to go to the Court of Protection before CANH could be withdrawn.

Saunders said:

This is concerning and disappointing news, because it removes an important safeguard from those without a voice.

The press release continued:

Worryingly the Supreme Court has said that that there is no difference in principle between turning off a ventilator and removing a feeding tube as both are “forms of medical treatment” and patients with PVS and MCS should be treated in the same way as people with “severe stroke” a “degenerative neurological condition” or “other conditions with a recognised downward trajectory.

Saunders added:

In making these declarations Lady Black and the Supreme Court have dramatically moved the goalposts on end of life decision-making. Once we accept that death by dehydration is in some brain-damaged people’s ‘best interests’ we are on a very slippery slope indeed.
There is a clear difference between turning off a ventilator on a brain-dead patient and removing CANH from a brain-damaged patient. PVS and MCS differ from conditions with a ‘downward trajectory’ because they are not progressive and do not in themselves lead inevitably to death.
The Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent. Taking these decisions away from the Court of Protection removes an important layer of legislative scrutiny and accountability and effectively weakens the law.
It will make it more likely that severely brain-damaged patients will be starved or dehydrated to death in their supposed ‘best interests’ and that these decisions will be more influenced by those who have ideological or financial vested interests in this course of action.

He concluded:

Given that it costs about £100,000 per year to care for a person with PVS or MCS the potential ‘saving’ for the NHS could be as much as £2.4 billion annually if most seek to go down this route. Given the huge and growing financial pressure the health service is under is this really an additional pressure, no matter how subtle, we want to put medical staff and administrators under?

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  • pocomouse

    Thank the invisible sky fairy!!!
    My mother died 18 months ago, at home in bed. She died in comfort, in the house she’d lived in for more than a quarter century, surrounded by her family. If the bible beaters had had their way she would have been in a cold, sterile hospital room being kept alive by machines regardless of her discomfort. Because that what our almighty saviour wants, of course. Mom didn’t want to be hooked up to machines or fed with IV. She was ready, and just wanted to go in her own bed in her own home. Thank goodness she got her wish. Saunders and his ilk would have robbed her of that.

  • L.Long

    Well if living in such a state is so awesome then I hope this ahole gets to suffer for many years before dying! He should get what he thinks others should have!

  • barriejohn
  • AgentCormac

    Should Saunders himself end up in a vegetative state one day, then I would absolutely support his right to have his wishes respected – no matter how selfish and wasteful I believe those wishes to be. By way of contrast, he is clearly incapable of keeping his god-bothering nose out of the affairs of others, or of extending the same simple, humane decency. Like so many religiots, he actually believes that his ‘strongly held beliefs’ mean he somehow has a right to intervene and interfere in the most basic of human affairs. To which I would respectfully respond, go fuck yourself, Mr Saunders. Die however you wish, and have the good grace to let everyone else do exactly the same.

  • Dianne Leonard

    This has been important for me for many years. I want to be able to plan my death and get a doctor to prescribe the medicine to actually do it. In California, where I live, a Death with Dignity law was recently passed. Now somebodies (I will let you guess who–3 guesses and the first two don’t count) are suing to overturn the law. This is one reason I, and my family and friends, have little to do with god-botherers. We saw when my dad’s wishes were ignored, though the hospital had all of his paperwork, including “NO CODE BLUE” on one page in big red letters. (That’s American doc-speak for Do Not Resusitate.) I’m not afraid of death; I *am* scared of my wishes being ignored, and of overwhelming pain, and dementia!

  • Rob Andrews

    This is also what happened to my uncle back in the 1970s. The docs kept him suffering for months with terminal cancer. A few years before this my friends grandmother elected to die at home, rather than surrender her body to ICU.”Then you lose control”, she said.
    So she died at home-of a stroke-with family. “In Italy we die in the home”

  • AgentCormac

    @Dianne Leonard
    As someone whose father is pretty much lost to Alzheimer’s, I couldn’t agree with you more. And having seen what my 84-year-old mother has had to endure for the past seven years, I too want to be able to plan my death as I would not want to inflict the same curse on my partner in any way shape or form. (Goodness knows, the poor woman has had to put up with enough from me over the past 30 years as it is!) As you say, the scary thing is that your wishes can easily be ignored once you’re gone..
    The bottom line being, it is disgraceful that someone else can, for their own selfish reasons, impact on your own wishes.
    But hey, that’s how religion works. They really are devious bastards.

  • Freeman

    And lets not stop here. Death should not come after weeks of starvation. No, once the family and medics have reached agreement the proper thing to do is to administer a lethal injection. Much more humane. I don’t give a damn what the pious want. They have no moral right to force their primitive ideas onto anyone. Fuck off and mind your own business.

  • Wally

    I think that I wish Saunders is seized by a very very painful terrifying long drawn out debilitating and eventually terminal affliction that renders him totally helpless and fully dependent upon machines and nurses to stay alive. Let him suffer so much pain and distress and indignity that he begs and screams for a merciful release by the hand of a medic. Then watch him repent for his sins against humanity as he is denied that which he craves but has denied others.

  • Robster

    Perhaps, give the delusion these spokespeople share, they are speaking from a position of experience when speaking of those living in a vegetative state?

  • barriejohn

    I wasn’t going to comment on this subject, but I will. My mother died of severe dementia at Christmas, and had an absolutely awful end. I had lived with her for ten years, and nursed her for the past five. A sweet, kind old lady, loved by everyone who knew her (including nursing staff and carers) became distressed, disorientated, confused and even aggressive, hitting me and screaming at me, eventually refusing food, drink and medication and wasting away. No one should have to endure that, and the experience was extremely upsetting for us all, leaving us with memories that we would rather not have. I try not to speak about her or think about her now, as it is still too upsetting for me. But of course, as I intimated on a previous thread, these loving, compassionate Christians are only emulating their wonderful God, who planned all this torture for the objects of his creation, so why would anyone expect anything else from them? At least the bastards are consistent!

  • Maggie

    Two things I’ve noticed about the religious: They revel in suffering (particularly in the suffering of others; Mother Teresa a perfect case in point) and are in no rush to be with their particular deity for a blissful eternity, preferring to be kept in even vegetative state to avoid him/her/it.
    As with (too many) current laws, give the religious an opt-out. Make them sign a legal document expressing their decision to be allowed to suffer and for their lives to be extended to whatever detrimental point of bodily decay that doctors can provide.

  • Shaun Whitfield

    AgentCormac: “Should Saunders himself end up in a vegetative state one day…”
    I think he already has.

  • Broga

    Total religious nutter and beyond rescuing. Stick a Dr in front of their name and they get listened to. I had some mild comments published about the benefits of a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and a doctor replies, knowing fuck all about me, describes me as a sandal wearing hippy, living in a commune or whatever, semi literate and says, get this, I should keep my mouth shut and listen to the elite of society, doctors, like him.
    I didn’t respond. My son described him as a twat, my daughter as obviously a fool, my wife (a doctor with more qualifications than you could shake a stick at) as a “type you often meet in the medical fraternity who scrape a basic qualification, pontificate on subjects they know sod all about including medicine, and are a danger to every patient or anyone else who innocently encounter them.”)
    You can decide for yourself where Saunders fits in.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    I’m with Freeman on this, if the decision has been made that the best outcome is to let the person die then don’t starve them to death, get it over with quickly.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    @barriejohn, sorry to read that. No one should be forced to go through that. Any decisions to be made in regard of family should be made by the family, not some outside person trying to enforce THEIR beliefs onto others that may not share those beliefs.

  • barriejohn

    GM-R: Thanks.
    Christians are predictably up in arms about this ruling, totally (deliberately?) missing the point again:
    “…actively ending life is always morally wrong…As human being, we are all people who are precious because we’re made in the image of God and the fact that someone is profoundly brain-damaged or disabled doesn’t mean that you stop loving them and caring for them and treating their symptoms and giving them food and pain relief and everything that’s required.”
    https://www.premier.org.uk/News/UK/Actively-ending-life-is-always-morally-wrong-Christian-charity-responds-to-court-ruling

  • barriejohn

    Maggie (above) notes that the faithful are in no hurry to depart this world and meet Jesus. I’ve just seen this comment on that link that I posted:
    I long to go now … I find this world awful in so many ways. I live in a country where people are obsessed with the sex show Love Island which was apparently supplied with 200 condoms according Good Morning Britain. I long to be with Jesus. I ask Him every day to allow me to go home. When I tell people of my wish most of them, including Christians gasp & say, Oh no you don’t want that. But I do very much want that. What’s not to love about it? We actually don’t die. Our shells that have carried us, often painfully, through this difficult life die but we don’t.
    Just shows the sort of mentality that we’re dealing with. These people are dangerous!

  • Broga

    barriejohn: I had a similar experience, although you clearly had a far harder time but I can understand your suffering. What provokes me beyond anything I can sensibly handle, is that Christians insist that others must be prevented from choosing when and how they should die.
    Both my mother-in-law and my mother pleaded for the release of death. Both rational, clear headed and, towards the end loaded with drugs which seemed to cancel each other out e.g. lessen the pain and produce stomach problems.