The perennial political football - Credit, public domain

The allegation – reasonably founded it seems – is that patients at a hospital in Gosport were routinely given opiates which were not strictly medically necessary. This led to the deaths of some hundreds of them – so the allegation goes. There is a number of things that can be said about this and not all of them are how terrible this is:

More than 450 patients died after being given powerful painkillers inappropriately at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, a report has found.

An independent panel said, taking into account missing records, a further 200 patients may have suffered a similar fate.

The report found there was a “disregard for human life” of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000.

Dr Jane Barton was responsible for prescribing painkillers over 12 years.

There was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering “dangerous” amounts of a medication not clinically justified, the report said.

That’s the basic outline right there. We can indeed say this is just awful of course.

Yet we might also ponder something like the Liverpool Care Pathway. Which is, essentially enough, the idea that if someone is dying then stick them on opiates so that they die. There was a time when it was suggested that every NHS hospital should do this:

The panel cannot “ascribe criminal or civil liability”, but the bishop said the panel was calling on Jeremy Hunt, the Home Secretary, Attorney General, Chief Constable of Hampshire Police and “the relevant investigative authorities” to “recognise the significance of what is revealed about the circumstances of deaths at the hospital and act accordingly”

Another thing we might say is that there’s a rather large number of people who think that getting the elderly tanked up on opiates is just what we should be doing anyway. Why should people have to go to Dignitas?

Not that I think that either of those latter two ideas are correct but they are out there. And there’s a certain difficulty in providing that strict dividing line between useful and legitimate uses of those opiates and non such. You know, assuming the Liverpool method is justified then where is that line where it isn’t, as here at Gosport? No, not in a know it when we see it sense, but what are the rules to be written down and followed?

Fortunately The Guardian is here to tell us all what we should really be thinking:

A four-year inquiry into the deaths of hundreds of elderly people who were routinely prescribed opioid drugs is expected to say that blame lies not just with the doctor involved but also those who worked with her, failed to monitor her and who failed to investigate – including the government.

Just where would we all be without Dr. Heinz Kiosk? For truly, we are all guilty.

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7 COMMENTS

    • Euthanasia supporters don’t support it for “clearing away” old people. That’s a straw man, just as saying opponents like people to suffer is.

      I support voluntary euthenasia largely so that I will have it as option for myself. Not for pain, but for incapacity.

      Other people are welcome to dribble into their napkins while incapable of moving under their own steam if they want. It’s not something I want though.

  1. There’s a slight difference here with the Gosport War Memorial. It is/was, in large part, a hospital where people go for recuperation after leaving one of the other local hospitals (QA, or Haslar ), so as such the people there weren’t expected to die, and so the Liverpool Care Pathway was less relevant than in a typical hospital

  2. Would this be another case where the Guardian’s view on events — and willingness to stretch the blame to cover all of society — coincides with the existence of a bill in Parliament?

    Debate whether this is lethal malpractice must not depend on opinions on whether some of the deaths were appropriate. The “medical ethics” here are that the patient owns his body and the ownership cannot implicitly be transferred to the medical and pharmaceutical profession to act in his “best interest.”

  3. Having just broken an ankle I was told by more than one medical
    Stafff to not try and be tough about pain as more pain meant less mobility and that they are more actively using painkillers to get people moving about, sometimes unnecessary may be necessary for another reason

  4. The big difference between this and Dignitas is that people who go to Dignitas have actively chosen to die; the clue is in the “voluntary” part of “voluntary euthanasia”. Without that choice this is just the State killing off people who are inconvenient to them.

    It isn’t overly surprising that the bureaucratic nightmare that is the NHS would do this; but, unfortunately, the only lessons that will be learned is more bureaucracy is required.