Thursday, August 5, 2010

Intentional Malnutrition of Scottish patients is a form of Euthanasia

I just received an email from one of our American supporters, telling me of what he has witnessed at the nursing home where his mother lives. The email describes what appears to be the intentional dehydration and malnutrition of the patients in that nursing home.

The email from the supporter caused me to remember this article that I am reprinting from the Sunday Herald in Scotland from July 4, 2010. The author, Caroline Wilson, is reporting the comments from Dr. Jean Turner, the executive director of the Scotland Patients Association. This article gets right to the problem.

Malnutrition of NHS patients is form of 'euthanasia'
By Caroline Wilson - Sunday Herald - July 4, 2010

One of the country's leading health campaigners has urged the Scottish Government to urgently tackle the problem of malnutrition of the elderly and vulnerable in the nation's hospitals, likening the problem to a form of "euthanasia".

Dr Jean Turner - executive director of Scotland Patients Association (SPA), a GP and former independent MSP - warned that hundreds of patients, particularly the elderly, are languishing in hospital beds undernourished because they are not given help with feeding.

She says nursing staff are often reluctant to air their concerns about patient welfare because of a fear of repercussions from senior management.

A recent report estimated that 50,000 patients are dying each year in NHS hospitals in a state of malnutrition, which may have hastened their end. New figures released by the British Dietetics Association earlier this week revealed that the problem costs Scotland's health boards around pound(s)1.3 billion each year. The SPA's warning follows a report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, which was highly critical of a Lanarkshire hospital's care of a 66-year-old patient.

The woman died of kidney failure after spending 14 weeks in Wishaw General Hospital and the family believe poor standards of care, particularly in nutrition, contributed to her death.

Her family, who were too distressed to go public and wished to retain their anonymity, told the Sunday Herald that they were repeatedly told by staff that they did not have the time to assist her at mealtimes with eating or drinking.

One family member said: "Staff would tell me, 'It takes an hour to feed your mother and we don't have an hour'.

"I will never forget how a nurse pulled me into a side room. She took my hand and said, 'I will deny this if it comes out but you must put in a complaint. It's not the first complaint about this ward.'

"We believe that the care she received in that hospital is the reason she is not here today."

The hospital was ordered to carry out a review of nursing and ensure better systems are put in place for assisting patients with feeding.

Dr Turner said: "Sadly, this is not an isolated case. If patients do not manage to swallow food, nutritious or otherwise, and drink then they will not heal, their general health will deteriorate and death may be an outcome, sooner or later. The SPA would call this a form of euthanasia to allow dehydration and malnutrition to develop due to lack of awareness, lack of staffing or carelessness.

"Whatever happened to measuring input and output and keeping charts to prevent this? We are in no doubt many wards are short- staffed and staff do not have the time that they know is needed to provide the best care, but SPA would say it is down to all staff to be accountable and raise their issues of concern."

The Scottish Government said it has invested more than pound(s)1.75 million to tackle the problem, including on malnutrition screening before admission to identify patients at risk, and stricter food standards. A spokeswoman said: "Where ward staff are aware a patient has difficulties, we expect them to help that patient to eat, something that can be especially valuable with older or vulnerable patients."

Link to the original article:

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