On Liverpool Care Pathway

They discussed a thing called Liverpool Care Pathway on the radio the other day. It's big and wide and complicated - as most things usually are, especially to people that aren't familiar with it - but in a nutshell it means that in countries where euthanasia isn't available (ie, legal), if a patient seems to be dying or close to dying doctors/nurses/staff stick them chock-full of painmeds and withdraw food and water.

Basically, starve to death - which in a body that is already under a lot of pressure happens relatively quickly, within days. From what I understand, it is essentially a system that was devised so that doctors have a way of letting people die on their own accord, rather than extend their days by supporting them with all the medicine and technology we have available.

And as they discussed the upside, and the downside (and you can Google it yourself, I won't give you a rundown), they also read out a listener's e-mail: this New Zealand woman had gotten a call from a nursing home telling her that her elderly mother "had been put on a care pathway" to which she actually had to ask, "So, does that mean that she's dying then?" and if I remember it correctly she was raising a point about it having to be clearer - much clearer than it is at the moment.

And as I listened, I thought to myself: how is that better than euthanasia?! I mean, I get it - there would be problems with euthanasia for the same reasons that there are problems with this Liverpool Care Pathway at the moment, and it is because behind these decisions are people who make mistakes because they are, well - people.

But still. How is that more dignified - withdrawing nutrition and water (which are both essential to sustaining life) and then letting the body shut down / break down itself - how is that more dignified than having the compassion to push the syringe and let that person go, gracefully?

I don't understand how we allow that compassion towards our pets - when our dogs and cats get old enough that they can't get up from the floor and walk outside anymore, and end up peeing/shitting on themselves, we take them to the vet, say our goodbyes and let them die humanely rather than wait for the nature to take its course - yet not allow that same grace towards humans?

I get it, some countries have a lot of work ahead of them before medical systems are reliable enough for that to happen - but what about the others?

I still remember that man who, when ill with terminal cancer in UK, said goodbyes to his family and travelled to Switzerland when he was still well enough to do so just so that he wouldn't have to go through a long and painful death in UK which, with that particular cancer, would've been his way - and instead, chose euthanasia in a country that allowed him to do that. Away from home and from most of his family.

Or another man, in New Zealand, who was tried in court and then let go after he helped his ill wife prepare for a suicide. His wife was suffering every day and didn't want to keep on suffering every day, and so he had that compassion towards her to help her set everything up and then he had to go for a walk whilst his wife was killing herself at their home just so that he wouldn't be able to be accused of murder, and to that I think...

...how's that compassionate? I can very clearly see how New Zealand court was compassionate because of how they acted in that case, but why does a man like that have to walk away from a woman he loves? Why not let him sit next to her bed, hold her hand and then smile, and cry instead?

PS. I've written about it before. I think it's quite clear what I think about it. But still, I'm open to listening out whichever side on this wide, complex and strangely beautiful topic.

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