Elderly at risk
Changes in the ‘right to die’ laws will put vulnerable people at risk of increasingly poor practice and even illegal actions, experts have warned.
The Patients Association (PA) in its report Patients not numbers, people not statistics has revealed that the quality of care for the elderly has decreased significantly.
It claimed that growing numbers of the elderly are subjected to ‘shocking standards of care’. Among cases mentioned was a lady unable to use the toilet facilities, who was told that she should wet the bed. ‘On one occasion’, the report said, ‘a night nurse told her off for doing this, severely enough to reduce her to tears’.
Another lady, Oenone Hewlett, said that when she arrived at Wexham Accident and Emergency, following a stay at St Marks Hospital, the doctor thought she must have been at home alone and neglecting herself. Her family said: ‘We had to explain she had been in hospital. He couldn’t understand how she could have become so dehydrated’.
PA director Katherine Murphy said: ‘Very often these are the most vulnerable elderly and terminally ill patients. It’s a sad indictment of the care they receive. There are also worrying instances of cruel and callous attitudes from staff towards vulnerable and sometimes terminally ill patients’.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the PA also said that changes to the laws on euthanasia may encourage wrong decisions about a patient’s life. This concern has become more pressing following claims that new NHS guidance on palliative care for the terminally ill is opening the floodgates to malpractice.
The fear is that due to poor standards of nursing care, loosening attitudes to euthanasia and unhelpful ‘official’ guidance, rash judgements may be made to ‘pull the plug’ in error.