A British physician’s disturbing testimony is shedding light on the increasingly common practice of National Health Service (NHS) hospitals sending sick or severely disabled newborn babies home or to hospices to die of starvation or dehydration.
Newborn babies are being being placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway for end-of-life care, a system originally allotted and designed for elderly or terminally ill adults. That end-of-life care involves the removal of food and fluid tubes, a method which can take an average of ten days to result in death.
The Daily Mail reports an investigation is being launched to determine “whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced doctors’ decisions.”
The physician, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounted his experience in a submission to the British Medical Journal, titled “How it feels to withdraw feeding from newborn babies.”
Parents must give doctors to permission to put their child on the pathway to death.
“I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby,” the doctor writes. “I reflect on how sanitised this experience seems within the literature about making this decision.”
The doctor dispelled the notion that the children die without suffering.
“Survival is often much longer than most physicians think. …Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues.”
The testimony addresses the “emotional burden” the care team experiences throughout the end-of-life process, describing monitoring the baby as “an indescribable mixture of compassion, revulsion and pain.”
“Some say withdrawing medically provided hydration and nutrition is akin to withdrawing any other form of life support. Maybe, but that is not how it feels. The one thing that helps me a little is the realisation that this process is necessarily difficult. It needs to be.”