Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another National Health Service story

It can't be said any better than the first four lines from the Daily Mail story: "A grandfather who beat cancer was wrongly told the disease had returned and left to die at a hospice which pioneered a controversial 'death pathway'.

Doctors said there was nothing more they could do for 76-year- old Jack Jones, and his family claim he was denied food, water and medication except painkillers.

He died within two weeks. But tests after his death found that his cancer had not come back and he was in fact suffering from pneumonia brought on by a chest infection.

To his family's horror, they were told he could have recovered if he'd been given the correct treatment." The kicker comes halfway down the page: "Despite the fact that no tests were carried out to confirm the diagnosis, his family say doctors instructed nurses to stop giving him food and fluids."

If you're thinking this will result in a massive malpractice suit, think again; remember that this is government healthcare, and governments don't usually permit themselves to be sued- "The hospice and the doctors who treated Mr Jones continue to deny liability, but his widow has now accepted an £18,000 out-of-court settlement after being told she would otherwise lose her legal aid." And they could scarcely fail to back the doctor- after all, he is the one who wrote the "dignity means being denied food and water" policy in the first place. And I'm sure if you own a microscope, you could find some comfort somewhere in the statement from the hospice: "The hospice's lawyer, Dorothy Flower, said it had settled the case to enable Mrs Jones to grieve for her husband, but did not accept liability. 'Some things are done for economic reasons, and a case like this costs a huge amount of money, which would do nobody any good,' she said." See- they were looking out for her best interests.

I hope our "public option" will be written a hell of a lot more carefully than England's was.

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