6 June
2011

A ‘Perfect Storm’ for Euthanasia?

A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into the standard of patient care in hospitals and nursing homes has been dubbed by one commentator as a ‘perfect storm’ for euthanasia advocates, and cited as evidence of the growing ‘culture of death’ enveloping health care. Anthony Ozimic, who has previously studied the effect of abortion on moral character, ‘maintains that the erosion of patient care can be directly linked to the adoption of anti-human concepts in medical ethics and laws, a change that can be seen in nearly every jurisdiction in the western world’. One report describes some of the discoveries made by the CQC:

Elderly people were served meals when they were asleep, presented with food that had gone cold, left to eat meals with their fingers because they were denied the necessary help to cut the food up, suffered dehydration because water was left out of their reach and not offered the chance to wash their hands after using bedpans. In one case a doctor actually had to prescribe water to ensure that a patient got anything to drink.

This week also saw the airing of a BBC Panorama documentary in which appalling levels of abuse were uncovered at a Bristol care home for adults with learning disabilities:

Footage recorded by an undercover reporter shows staff goading patients to commit suicide, punching and slapping them in the face, subjecting them to cold showers and pinning them to the ground with chairs . . . During one incident a woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping out the window.  As she lay on the floor after the attempt, [a senior member of staff] leaned over her and said: “Go on, do it now I’m here. You will go flying. When you hit the floor do you reckon you will make a thud or a splat? Come on I’ll keep it open for ya”.

Could this be what euthanasia advocates have in mind by ‘dying with dignity’? It is no surprise to find that in a recent poll conducted by the charity SCOPE, 70% of disabled persons said they would feel pressured to end their life if assisted suicide were legalised. While ‘high-profile lawyers, doctors and celebrities such as Terry Pratchett and Sir Patrick Stewart grab the headlines, the views of the thousands of ordinary disabled people who could be affected by this issue are rarely listened to’, said Richard Hawkes, SCOPE’s Chief Executive.

Predictably, these incidents have been used as ammunition by both sides in the yawn-inducing debate over the Government’s NHS reforms, with many commentators missing a much more fundamental point.

It would be comforting if we could believe that this kind of abuse was the doing of a few perverted sadists. All we should then need to do for the rest of us to feel safe would be to lock their sort up. But, whilst there can be no cavil about the need to punish the perpetrators of such crimes, and whilst we must also bear in mind that the vast majority of those working in care are dedicated and compassionate individuals, is it really credible that a group of psychopaths just happened to end up working in the same care home?

Four staff from the home were arrested and thirteen suspended. Only one man, so it seems, was concerned enough to report the abuse. And what was the response to his revelations of what one charity has described as ‘torture’?

He complained to the Care Quality Commission… [and] received no response other than two automated emails. He subsequently called the commission, only to be told that the person dealing with his complaint was on holiday.

In desperation, he approached the BBC.

Far from being psychopaths, those who were arrested or suspended – particularly those who simply stood by and did nothing whilst those in their care were abused by other members of staff –, as well as those who were more interested in topping up their tan instead of addressing the problem, were in all likelihood much like the rest of us. They were probably not weirdos who lived in hovels with excrement smeared over the walls, but people with cars purchased on credit and well-varnished garden fences, who enjoyed taking their grandchildren on trips to the zoo. But, like all of us to a greater or lesser extent, they have been influenced by a culture which allows babies to be killed in their mother’s wombs (even up to birth if they have the sort of disabilities that those at the home in question would have suffered from), as well as allowing the sick and vulnerable to be dehydrated and starved to death in hospitals. The Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church made a very perceptive observation in the 1960s, the truth of which can be seen by persons of all faiths and none, when they said that abortion and euthanasia are not simply private offences but social evils which ‘poison human society’, and even ‘do more harm to those who practise them than those who suffer from the injury’.

Recent events lay bare for all to see the effects of this poison on our country’s bloodstream.

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