Who says crime doesn’t pay? According to London’s Daily Telegraph, British hospitals are euthanizing patients at ever-increasing rates — and raking in big bucks as a result.
Documents obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that nearly two-thirds of National Health Service (NHS) trusts, regional authorities that administer hospitals, “have received millions of pounds for hitting targets related to” the use of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), a controversial end-of-life care program.
Developed by a Liverpool hospice to relieve the suffering of terminally ill cancer patients during their final days, the LCP is essentially a death sentence meted out by doctors. A physician who considers a patient to be near death may put the patient on the pathway, after which the patient will be heavily sedated and may have food and water withheld. On average, patients die within 33 hours of being put on the LCP.
Use of the LCP has expanded far beyond its creators’ intentions. As The New American reported in June, 29 percent of all patients who die under NHS care are on the LCP, leading British neurologist Patrick Pullicino to declare that the LCP has become an “assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway.”
A survey of 72 NHS trusts obtained by the Telegraph reveals that about 85 percent of trusts have adopted the LCP. Over six in 10 of those trusts have received at least $20 million in the past two to three years for “hit[ting] targets associated with the pathway,” though that number could end up being more than $32 million by the time all payments are issued, the paper says.
Under a system known as “Commissioning for Quality and Innovation” (CQUIN), local NHS commissioners pay trusts for meeting targets to “reward excellence” in care.
These can range from simply recruiting a set number of people to classes to help them stop smoking to providing specialist end-of-life services on wards — such as LCP.
As the goals are set locally, they vary from area to area but in some cases trusts are given specific targets to ensure that a set number of people who die in their hospital are on the LCP.
Elsewhere the targets relate to how the pathway is operated or monitored.
Central Manchester University Hospitals received $130,000 in 2010 for meeting LCP-related targets. The trust “said the proportion of patients whose deaths were expected and had been placed on the pathway more than doubled to 87.7 per cent in the past year,” according to the Telegraph.
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Photo: The new Royal London Hospital building