New guidelines proposed by the British Medical Association would put thousands of UK residents suffering from various degenerative diseases at risk for what is being called “euthanasia by stealth,” the Catholic Herald reported.
Last month, the United Kingdom’s highest court ruled that doctors may withdraw artificially administered nutrition and hydration from critically ill patients without a court’s permission. Now, the newly proposed BMA guidelines seek to massively expand the range of patients eligible for the removal such services that could otherwise keep them alive for years.
The proposals, which would affect patients with severe degenerative diseases or advanced dementia, were put forward after Britain’s highest court ruled last month that qualified National Health Service staff and officials will no longer require a court’s permission to withdraw life-sustaining food and water from critically ill patients who are unable to communicate or feed themselves. Qualified doctors can now act on their own authority in these cases, provided they have the explicit permission of the patient’s family or, in cases where family is not present, medical proxy.
But the new guidelines wouldn’t require that a patient be in a near-death, minimally conscious or or vegetative state in order for a doctor to make life-ending decisions. The BMA draft proposals mention “those patients who have a recognized degenerative condition – such as advanced dementia, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease – that is likely to result in the patient being unable to take sufficient nutrition orally.”
The text reveals the alarmingly pragmatic and fatalistic nature of the proposed change:
“Due to the degenerative nature of their condition, these patients are on an expected downward trajectory and will inevitably die, usually as a result of their underlying condition, although perhaps not imminently and could, potentially, go on living for many years.”
The Catholic Herald reports that currently, 850,000 British people are estimated to have dementia, a portion of the population expected to exceed 1,000,000 by 2025.
Dr. Peter Saunders, of the UK pro-life group “Care not Killing,” coined the term “euthanasia by stealth” to describe the suggested guidelines, which use the language of “autonomy and best interests” to justify the taking of countless vulnerable lives.
“There are conceivably tens of thousands of patients in England and Wales who are vulnerable to the use and abuse of this guidance,” he said.“It will be almost impossible to work out what has happened in a given case and there are no legal mechanisms in place for bringing abusers to justice.”
Professor Patrick Pullicino, who has worked to expose wrongful hospital deaths under the Liverpool Care Pathway, called the BMA proposals “terrible,” noting that they would extend “end-of-life pathways to people with neurological diseases who are not dying.”
(H/T: Catholic Herald)