More horrific details are emerging in a case that has shaken the UK to its core. It has been revealed that hundreds patients being cared for at Gosport War Memorial Hospital died after being administered lethal doses of opiates.
Dr. Jane Barton has been held “responsible” for the practice of prescribing the “powerful and unnecessary” drugs that ended the lives of some 650 patients between 1988 and 2000.
The Gosport Independent Panel into Gosport War Memorial Hospital revealed that just 45 percent of those who were administered lethal quantities of diamorphine (which is often used to alleviate severe pain at the very end of life) were said to be in pain.
“The ones most likely to get the treatment appeared to be not the sickest, but the most ‘difficult’,” wrote Dominic Lawson at the Times. “As the stepson of one of the victims remarked: ‘If a nurse didn’t like you, you were a goner.'”
The whistleblower in the case, Pauline Spilker, described a culture of euthanasia among staff.
“It appeared to me then and more so now that euthanasia was practiced by the nursing staff. I cannot offer an explanation as to why I did not challenge what I saw at that time . . . I feel incredibly guilty,” she explained.
Incredibly, Barton defended her use of diamorphine on a lady with dementia who was “not [in] physical pain but not happy, not comfortable, not easy to look after.”
“Jane would like to thank her family, friends, colleagues, former patients and the many others for their continued support and loyalty through this protracted inquiry,” Barton’s husband Tim said in a prepared statement to the press, as reported by the Independent. “She has always maintained that she was a hard-working, dedicated doctor, doing the best for her patients in a very inadequately resourced part of the health service.”
Bridget Devine-Reeves, whose grandmother died at the hospital, accused Barton of refusing to show any sympathy to the families who had lost loved ones.
“She has made no mention of the families or put any sense of empathy into her statement, which doesn’t surprise me as she never has done,” she said. “We have been here for a very long time and it’s very unfortunate, she will give her comment, the families will respond, it shouldn’t go on like this, it should be in a criminal court.”
As for Barton’s claim that the drugs were administered due to an “inadequately resourced part of the health service,” Devine-Reeves vehemently disagreed.
“The first ward that she started this ‘institutional regime of prescribing drugs that ended life’ was a small care home ward,” she said.
The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing Barton’s case, and announced it would provide a full response sometime this fall.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has come under increased scrutiny over its end-of-life ethics since the Alfie Evans case in which the hospital caring for the young boy advised that he should be taken off life support against the wishes of his parents. Alfie was suffering from a degenerative neurological condition, and the courts ruled that it was in his “best interests” to let him die. Alfie’s parents lost a protracted legal battle to have their son transferred to an Italian hospital, despite arranging funding and transportation, and even gaining the support of Pope Francis.
More recently, Alfie’s father Tom Evans has hinted at a potential legal battle over what he believes was the “murder” of his son.
“It’s been 1 month and 2 weeks since our gladiator was [taken] away from us, deprived, neglected, mistreated and respected!” Evans wrote in a June 16 Facebook post. “We wanted everyone to know that in time as we grieve, we will be speaking out further [about] the build up to Alfie’s death,” he continued, “and we will be speaking out the truth and in detail about the week that we had to go through, that no other parents should ever, ever go through or imagine!
Evans wrote that the “world needs to know what happened in those five days and what we did and went through to have Alfie cared for when he proved Drs wrong!!”
One of the most controversial elements of this heartbreaking case was when doctors assured Alfie’s parents that the 23-month-old would last a matter of minutes following the withdrawal of life support. But, to everyone’s amazement, Alfie began to breathe on his own — for days.
“I would like to remind the world [that] those [doctors] told me and Kate and all the courts [that] Alfie wouldn’t last longer than five minutes!” Tom wrote. “He survived a further five days and fought hard. He should have been [given] respect, care, decency.”
He concluded: “We thank everyone for your amazing courageous support it’s helped us in the deepest struggles and in the hardest days but you along with Alfie have helped us get through it and we thank you all sincerely. We will get JUSTICE FOR ALFIE.”
(H/T: The Independent)