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LONDON, May 31, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Doctors who wish to keep their elderly patients alive amid the squalid conditions of some UK hospitals have been forced to prescribe drinking water for them, a report has revealed.

Three of 12 hospitals run by the National Health Service – Britain’s government-run health care system – were found to fail to meet even the basic standards of care required by law, according to the Care Quality Commission.

The UK Daily Mail reported on the doctors’ use of drastic measures to remind nurses to provide helpless patients with basic care, and the article’s comments section was flooded with testimonies condemning similar treatment of elderly relatives.

The Mail notes that dehydration is known to be a contributing factor in the deaths of 800 hospital patients every year, while 300 die malnourished. The report also found that patients were addressed in a “condescending and dismissive” manner.

American bioethics commentator Wesley Smith called the news “gross negligence on an unimaginable scale,” noting that the abuse did not even entail the use of feeding tubes, as was the case in the death by dehydration of Terri Schiavo in 2005.

Pro-life advocates in the UK have said the data is unsurprising, calling the deteriorating standards of a piece with decades of ethical decline in other areas, such as abortion and euthanasia.

“Successive court judgments, laws and professional guidelines enshrining euthanasia by omission, plus elder abuse and a massive propaganda for assisted suicide has created a true culture of death,” said Anthony Ozimic, communications manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

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