New revelations are coming from the UK that doctors are discharging sick and disabled newborn babies, from National Health Service hospitals in England only to die slowly at home or in hospices in an unfathomable manner. The innocent children are being put on controversial “death pathways,” once only thought to have involved elderly and terminally ill adult patients.
According to the UK Daily Mail, one doctor has admitted starving and dehydrating ten babies to death in the neonatal unit of one hospital alone. Writing in a leading medical journal, the physician revealed the process can take an average of ten days during which a baby becomes ‘smaller and shrunken’. The LCP – on which 130,000 elderly and terminally-ill adult patients die each year – is now the subject of an independent inquiry ordered by ministers.
“The parents want ‘nothing done’ because they feel that these anomalies are not consistent with a basic human experience. I know that once decisions are made, life support will be withdrawn. Assuming this baby survives, we will be unable to give feed, and the parents will not want us to use artificial means to do so. Regrettably, my predictions are correct. I realize as I go to meet the parents that this will be the tenth child for whom I have cared after a decision has been made to forgo medically provided feeding. ‘Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was ten days” – Anonymous UK Doctor
The investigation, which will include child patients, will look at whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced doctors’ decisions.
Medical critics of the LCP insist it is impossible to say when a patient will die and as a result the LCP death becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say it is a form of euthanasia, used to clear hospital beds and save the National Health Service money.
In America, we are blessed to have perinatal hospices for babies with a lethal diagnosis such as Trisomy 18. For example, at Alexandra’s House in Kansas City, MO parents are given comfort and resources to spend precious last moments with their babies. These perinatal hospices serve as an option for parents to help them heal during the grieving process. The parents are involved in the process and are given all of their options without coercion. Even if the parents are unwilling to be involved in the perinatal hospice process these centers of care will provide the resources necessary to give the baby the palliative care, dignity and respect the child deserves in the dying process.