By Hilary White

LIVERPOOL, October 13, 2009 ( – A British widow has won a settlement of £18,000 for the death of her husband, who died after being cured of stomach cancer in a hospice that has adopted the notorious Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) protocol for the terminally ill.

76 year-old Jack Jones had responded successfully to chemotherapy and surgery, but died of pneumonia two weeks after doctors at the Marie Curie Hospice ordered the withdrawal of food and hydration and all medication except painkillers in accordance with what is being called in British media the “death pathway.”

Jones's widow, Pat, has called for an end to the LCP, which has been heavily criticised recently by doctors who fear that under its provisions patients are being incorrectly diagnosed as dying.

Pat Jones told media that her husband had recovered from cancer but had developed a chest infection after surgery. He was sent to the hospice in Liverpool, the same centre where the LCP was developed, for respite care. While he was there, the family were told that the cancer had returned and doctors ordered food and fluids to be withdrawn. The family said, however, that no tests were carried out to confirm this diagnosis and post-mortem tests revealed that Mr. Jones had pneumonia that could have been treated.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Alison Coackley, a palliative medicine consultant who played a key role in drawing up the Liverpool Care Pathway, was the consulting physician who informed the Jones family that their father's cancer had returned.

The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) was ostensibly created to give guidelines to health care workers in the care of patients in the last few days of life. It allows doctors to authorise the removal of food and hydration and the administration of only “comfort care” for patients judged to be in the final stages of a terminal illness. In many cases under the LCP, this means the administering of drugs to cause “permanent deep sedation” until death.

Mrs. Jones said, “We fought in the hospice to get Jack the right treatment and they blocked us, making us feel we were a nuisance.”

“I was worried it was pneumonia, I wanted them to check his chest, but they wouldn't.”
The hospice has yet to confirm to the family whether Mr. Jones was being treated according to the LCP. A statement from the hospice denied any liability in the case.

“I would love to see the pathway banned,” Mrs. Jones said. “Or at the very least be made the subject of drastic safeguards.”

“I realise that some patients have had enough and don't want to go on. But it shouldn't be done without permission and without discussing it. In Jack's case, they robbed him of a longer life and cheated his family of time we might have spent with him.”

Michael Danby, the family's solicitor, told media that reports he had obtained found that, with the help of antibiotics, Mr. Jones could have made a full recovery and lived at least another two years.

The LCP has come under fire recently from a group of doctors who said that it fails to create safeguards for patients who may benefit from further treatment. A letter, signed by Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London and Dr. Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke's cancer centre in Guildford, warned that the LCP is creating a “national crisis” in palliative care.

Patients, the doctors said, are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.”

“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”

Recently, pro-life advocates agreed that the LCP, combined with the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act and the promise by the Director of Public Prosecutions that in some cases people who assist others to commit suicide will not be prosecuted, have combined to create a situation in Britain where euthanasia and assisted suicide are de facto legalised.

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