The guidelines say consultants or GPs should be allowed to remove tubes giving food and water to those who cannot feed themselves – even if they could otherwise live for years.
The British Medical Association proposals mean patients who could otherwise have survived for years may have their lives ended by the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration tubes.Gosh! Who could have predicted this? Apart from, or course, anyone who'd seen similar mission creep.
Last month, Supreme Court justices endorsed the right of doctors to remove 'clinically-assisted artificial nutrition and hydration' on their own authority with the agreement of a patient's family.Note that. It'll become important later.
The draft proposals being circulated by the BMA say doctors should be able to end the lives not only of patients close to death or in deep comas – in vegetative or minimally conscious states – but of those suffering from much more common degenerative conditions, including advanced dementia."Hey, look, while we're here..."
Decisions on removing nutrition and hydration tubes should be taken by consultants for hospital patients, or GPs for those in nursing or residential homes or living in their own homes.
However, families or friends should be consulted, usually through 'best interests meetings' set up to decide whether it would be better for a patient to live or die.Note that 'consultation' there. It's not 'with the agreement of the patient's family', is it?
Dr Peter Saunders, of the group Care Not Killing, said: 'This is a recipe for euthanasia by stealth, but all in the name of autonomy and best interests – the very worst kind of doctor paternalism justified on the grounds that the patient would have wanted it.
'There are conceivably tens of thousands of patients in England and Wales who are vulnerable to the use and abuse of this guidance.
'It will be almost impossible to work out what has happened in a given case and there are no legal mechanisms in place for bringing abusers to justice.'Well, quite! There seem to be no mechanism for bringing to justice the criminal doctors, after all....