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GPs Told to Select 1% for 'Death Register'
Cornwall’s total estimated population in 2011 was 532,300 (Cornwall Council). If Norman Lamb the Liberal Democrat Care Minister gets his way, that will mean that well over 5,000 Cornish residents could find themselves identified as subjects for ‘end-of-life’ care within twelve months, to fill a Government quota.

Amazingly, the minister has noticed that people have a greater tendency to die in hospital than elsewhere and is concerned that expensive treatment given to people who appear to have a fair chance of dying rather than recovering is a poor use of NHS money in these days of belt tightening. At the bottom of his thinking is the LCP (the Liverpool Care Pathway), a method adopted by hospitals for easing the last hours of those expected to die. LCP can mean sedation and the withdrawal of food, fluids and life-saving treatment. A report has been released describing it as ‘best practice’ and as recommended by the NHS.

However it becomes even more chilling to learn that GPs will be asked to pick one out of every 100 patients to go on a list of those likely to die over the next 12 months. These will only be given ‘end-of life care’ expected to save the NHS over a billion pounds each year. Can GP’s who are bound by Hippocratic Oath be asked to fill a death quota by order of the state?

Furthermore Mr. Lamb recommends discriminatory considerations to influence their decisions advising that patients in care homes should be ‘actively considered for your register’. GPs will also receive feedback from district nurses or hospital consultants. The selected patients will then be ‘less likely to be subject to treatments of limited clinical value’.

Let’s put that in layman’s terms for a moment. A (fictional) confused, fragile 95 year-old has contracted pneumonia, due ultimately to understaffing at her care home. She is on the list, so she will not be receiving antibiotics. Do we expect her to survive? Not likely! In the words of one senior NHS consultant, Professor Patrick Pullicino, such scenarios produce a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. However it would be a mistake to assume that even relatively young people could never appear on such a register. This is outrageous. Our citizens are not for culling by quota, like the unfortunate badgers.

It is hard to work out what our authorities are using for morals, ethics or plain sense these days. Earlier this year two men who were desperate to end their lives in a dignified manner, due to the extreme distress caused by their condition, were denied the right to die. Yet it seems now that others, who may not actually be ready to go, will be chosen to die of neglect instead.

The goal is to save one billion pounds, we are told, and yet this figure is relatively insignificant compared with what we are losing in unpaid corporate tax. HM Revenue & Customs estimated that the size of the tax gap could be anything between £3.7bn and £13bn. The Commons public accounts committee put it at a possible £8.5bn and the TUC said £12bn (Tax gap reporting team, The Guardian, Monday 2 February 2009) First they kick the poor and now it’s the sick. When will the government get its house in order and stand up to their corporate pay masters instead of beating the people?

Mebyon Kernow utterly condemns this move by Norman Lamb to deprive some of the most vulnerable in our society of the means to live. We call on all GPs in Cornwall, and elsewhere, to refuse to implement this odious directive. Once we start down this road there is no knowing where we could end up.
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Published on 22nd October 2012.

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