DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Patients must have dignity until the end



00:26 GMT, 22 December 2012

Sadly, it has been a year in which disturbing questions have been asked about the way Britain’s health service – so admirable in so many ways – treats the sick and dying.

There have been terrible instances of patients being killed by malnutrition and dehydration.

Only this month, the Labour MP Ann Clwyd told how her husband – treated with ‘indifference and contempt’ by NHS nurses – had died ‘like a battery hen’.

Sadly many instances have come to light in which the sick are not treated with the dignity they deserve

Sadly many instances have come to light in which the sick are not treated with the dignity they deserve

Most troublingly, a string of families have told the Mail harrowing stories of losing their loved ones in the most distressing circumstances on the Liverpool Care Pathway, the official guidelines under which patients judged to be dying are left without treatment, food or fluids.

Of course, the debate over the timing of a person’s death is hugely emotive and there are no easy answers.

Yesterday, in a case which will bitterly divide public opinion, the Appeal Court ruled a hospital could stop providing life-preserving care to a man whose own family desperately wanted to keep alive.

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Others contend that doctors should – in some instances – be doing less to preserve life. Today, on these pages, we publish an extract from a book by Jennifer Worth, on whose memoirs the TV series Call The Midwife is based.

The ex-nurse, who has since died of cancer at home, in the care of her loved ones, argues that the NHS should not be using intrusive modern medical procedures to prolong the suffering of people who, if saved, will have no quality of life.

‘We seem to have lost sight of the fact that there really is a time to die,’ she writes.

What seems certain, however, is that the standard of nursing care in Britain is, in too many cases, lacking in human kindness and compassion.

Nurses’ training often places too much emphasis on the academic and not the practical. They tick boxes but do not have the time to feed patients or take them to the toilet. The dying are treated as if an inconvenience, draining the NHS of time and money.

Yesterday, Prince Charles was personally moved to warn of ‘the need to restore urgently a climate of care at the heart of our health service’.

The NHS has many glorious strengths. But, for humanity’s sake, we urge ministers, doctors and nurses to listen to the Prince and ensure that all patients – whether dying or not – are treated with dignity.

Mr Balls in la-la-land

Yesterday – as it emerged Britain has already borrowed 93billion this financial year – Ed Balls was once again attacking the ‘unfairness’ of the Coalition’s plan to limit benefit rises to 1 per cent.

Predictably, the la-la land shadow chancellor made no attempt to explain how he would find the money to reverse a policy which, if kept in place until 2018, will save the country 11billion.

Ed Balls has branded the Coalition's plan to limit benefit rises to 1 per cent as 'unfair'

Ed Balls has branded the Coalition's plan to limit benefit rises to 1 per cent as 'unfair'

Nor does he recognise that, far from cutting handouts to the bone, ministers are making only modest savings to a welfare system which, as we reveal today, spends more on family benefits than those so-called progressive liberal nations Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Holland.

Until Mr Balls admits the need to reduce a deficit he personally did so much to create, neither he nor his party will have a scintilla of fiscal credibility.

The thin blue line

Amid the continued unedifying row over Plebgate, the Met yesterday confirmed there are now 30 officers investigating whether Andrew Mitchell was the victim of an orchestrated police smear campaign.

With a further 30 officers on the Jimmy Savile inquiry, and 185 police working on matters related to phone hacking by the now defunct News of the World, the Mail has a simple question: who is left to catch the burglars, muggers and rapists