Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Death by Dehydration

Reading Fr. Tim's post on NHS patients being denied food and fluids because this was classed as "medical treatment" reminded me about the Bland ruling. It's referred to a lot in Pro-Life circles, but it occurred to me that it happened quite a few years ago, and some readers may not be aware of how awful the case was.

Having worked as an auxiliary nurse to help pay my way through my degree, I had lots of nursing friends. They were able to tell me some of the inside information that didn't seem to make it to the papers.

Tony Bland had been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state after having sustained crush injuries in the Hillsborough Disaster. However, he was not in any pain or distress. It was decided to withdraw food and fluids, and the justification for this was that artificial feeding and hydration constituted medical treatment.

Quite apart from the realisation that this was the thin end of the wedge in allowing euthanasia by neglect, my nursing friends pointed out that dehydration was such a painful way to die that Tony Bland actually needed to be given strong painkillers to alleviate the agony caused (which was clearly visible to the staff nursing him)...

It is a very short step from giving drugs to alleviate the "discomfort" associated with the withdrawal of food and fluids to giving a lethal injection to hasten the death of a patient who isn't being given such basic nursing care. Some people will say that this is scare-mongering, that it's too far-fetched, and that there will be plenty of controls and checks to prevent this... but before Tony Bland, it was unthinkable to deliberately starve a person to death.

4 comments:

Paulinus said...

Mac - this interested me and I've posted on it. Thanks for bringing the story to general attention

http://inhocsigno.blogspot.com/2006/08/death-dying-and-dehydration.html

Lagan Lass said...

Dear Mac,
Not only do we have death by 'dehydration' but also through abortion. The culture of Death is strong in our world. Can I also bring to the attention of practising Catholics and non-practising, the appalling treatment meted out to one concerned gentleman. He objected so strongly to abortion offered by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Norfolk, that he sent photos of aborted badies to the hospital. He was fined and jailed for his behaviour. The hospital went a step further and refused to treat him except in the case of extreme emergency. They refused him a hip replacement. We are in a world where everyone has to say 'yes' to everything and 'no' to nothing. Those who stand out against the 'culture of death merchants' tend to pay the full price.

Regards,
Lagan Lass

Anonymous said...

For balance - the results of the enquiry: the coroner ruled that Mrs. Knockels did not die of starvation, and the hospital and staff were completely exonerated.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/6245439.stm

For a more detailed summary of the coroner's report, including the coroner's criticism of the original high court ex parte injunction, see http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/news/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&tBrand=edponline&tCategory=news&itemid=NOED09%20Jan%202007%2020%3A38%3A42%3A620

Mac McLernon said...

Anonymous, this post was about the case of Tony Bland, not Mrs Knockels.

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