Mental Capacity Act
Parliament passed the Mental Capacity Act on 5th April 2005. The Act can be read on the Office of Public Sector Information website here. Deliberate killing by dehydration has become more prevalent since the 1993 Bland judgment. The Bland judgement opened the door for doctors to dehydrate and starve to death certain mentally incapacitated patients. What the Mental Capacity Act does, through advance decisions, lasting powers of attorney and the re-definition of "best interests" and "medical treatment", is to extend the principles of the Bland decision to all mentally incapacitated patients. The passage of the Bill will have profound repercussions - it will mean that doctors will be forced to choose between killing some of their patients and leaving the profession. It will destroy what is left of medical ethics in this country.
In a letter to the Catholic Herald
, a group of Catholic medical and legal experts wrote:
"The Pope in a recent address has made it clear that even in the case of PVS patients 'the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering'. This Bill would permit and indeed legally protect routine abuse and termination of the life of the vulnerable and would create an inconsistent body of law with conflicting obligations for health professionals. It compromises the principle that all people have an intrinsic dignity irrespective of their mental impairment or physical condition, one of the cornerstones of Christian civilization, enshrined not only in the ancient common law of England, but also in the Hippocratic tradition of medicine and in international law properly understood."
Doctors who refuse on clinical or other ethical grounds to implement an advance refusal of treatment face litigation and possibly criminal conviction. Even in situations where there is no obligation to provide therapeutic measures (for example, when they are ineffective) there remains a duty of care towards the patient. It would be unreasonable, and immoral, to force healthcare professionals to relinquish this responsibility because of their conscientious objection to implementing clinically inappropriate or unethical advance refusals.
SPUC's Mental Capacity Act Explained booklet examines the Act as finally passed and explains how it will permit euthanasia by omission. You can order copies of this booklet by contacting SPUC HQ.
Patients First Network (PFN)
Patients First Network (PFN) helps you to let doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers know how you expect to be treated in hospital if you are mentally incapacitated. PFN fights against euthanasia. More