I knew those Brits were crafty folks, so much smarter than us Yankees, with their eloquent vocabulary, mastery of multiple languages, and overall ability to look snooty at the drop of a derby. [cue classical music] Why, they even just by-passed the entire ‘death panel’ discussion altogether. That’s right – they’ve gone straight to sedation. Say goodnight, Gracie.

In a cruelly efficient inspiration, a board (ironically named N.I.C.E. – I’m not making that up) has enacted recommendations called the Liverpool Care Pathway, designed to reduce suffering for patients in their final throes. Originally developed strictly for cancer patients, it’s now being used for a variety of other life threatening conditions.

Under the guidelines the decision to diagnose that a patient is close to death is made by the entire medical team treating them, including a senior doctor.

Wait a minute [ripping needle across vinyl] – in America, we call those “panels”!

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across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.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.

One doctor said:“Forecasting death is an inexact science. 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.”

“I have been practicing palliative medicine for more than 20 years and I am getting more concerned about this “death pathway” that is coming in. It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Patients who are allowed to become dehydrated and then become confused can be wrongly put on this pathway.”

Once upon a time, didn’t we send a doctor to jail for assisting in these kinds of procedures?

Gosh, maybe that ditzy former governor from Alaska was actually more right and insightful than any of us gave her credit for.

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