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Defending life
from conception to natural death


The week we nearly lost

4 May 2016

The story of a couple who almost lost their mother to euthanasia on the NHS

The last week of February 2016 is a week Anne and Mike Clarke will never forget. It was also an important week for Anne's mother Margaret; it was the last week of her life. But this was a week the whole family nearly lost.

Margaret was 95 years old and had been admitted to hospital with a suspected stroke in early February. From the outset Anne and Mike felt that the hospital saw Margaret as just another old lady who was going to die soon. Some staff were attentive, but "it was patchy", says Anne. "Nobody really wanted to listen to us. We felt we were on a downward slope from the beginning."

Then came the fateful Friday. On 19 February Anne and Mike were told that Margaret was going to die within the next few days and that all food and fluids would be stopped. Anne was devastated. She couldn't bear the thought of her mother being left to die with no food or water. So she stood her ground and questioned the doctor about his decision. Eventually the doctor agreed to wait until the following Monday before removing the nasal tube through which Margaret was being hydrated.

"This is just like the Liverpool Care Pathway"

"It was disgusting," recalls Mike. "They were talking about taking away the tube in front of Margaret. Margaret could hear everything. In the end I said to the nurse, 'You're asking my wife to kill her mother'. The nurse just looked down and walked away."

The hospital wanted to give morphine to Margaret. "But she wasn't in any pain," says Anne. "I said to the staff, 'This is just like the Liverpool Care Pathway'. They said, 'Oh we don't use that any more.' To me it's exactly the same. Also the dietician wanted to reduce the feeding supplement."

Patients First Network

Over the weekend 20-21 February, Anne and Mike contacted family members to explain what was happening. One relative suggested that they should get in touch with Patients First Network, a service offered by SPUC to support and advise in situations where euthanasia is immediately threatened.

"We spoke to Patients First Network on Sunday evening," remembers Anne. "They said we should ask to see the consultant again. They emailed us a list of questions to ask at the meeting, As time was short, they suggested that we put a note on the outside of Mum's hospital folder saying that the tube was not to be removed until we had met with the consultant."

In the event, Mike and Anne saw a more senior consultant on Monday 22 February. He agreed to leave the tube in, but if it came out for any reason, they would not re-insert it.

Family support

In the week that followed Margaret's grandson flew in from the other side of the world. "She really brightened up when she saw him," says Anne. "Our other sons who live abroad sent video messages to mum. She loved it. She knew we were with her." Email messages circulated around the family; a record of marvellous memories of a loving lady.

But Anne felt that the hospital was against her. "The pressure was definitely there for me to get rid of mum", she says.

Precious last days

Anne is convinced that if she hadn't fought for her mother's last days, they would have lost them. "There was another lady in the same ward," she says , "On that same Friday they took the fluid tube out of her. She died on Sunday night. That would have been my mum too."

Margaret died naturally on Monday 29 February. Her family mourn her loss, but they will always treasure those precious days of saying goodbye which they nearly lost.

Sign our petition to stop euthanasia

SPUC's Lives Worth Living campaign has launched a petition to health chiefs to prevent euthanasia happening to patients like Margaret in hospitals in England and Wales. Care should be based on the patient's day to day needs, until the patient dies naturally - the last days of life are among the most important in a lifetime.

Go to our Lives Worth Living page to sign the petition now.

This story originally appeared in our Pro-Life Times, now in circulation for May 2016. Names have been changed.

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Comments (4)

  • ou toppie

    4 May 2016, 6:47pm

    It’s a grand story, again, well done SPUC !

    As many of us know personally, the final moments of anyone’s life are so rivetingly important, so vital and enduring, often so uplifting, they simply must not be interfered with. Let people die naturally, in true dignity. Leave them alone in their last hours. It was always so and still is in some civilisations.

    Behind all this hurrying, advancing the day of death, aping the Liverpool “Deathway” (as I called it), lies a sordid desire to saving money by getting rid of “useless lives”. What other reason can there be ? It’s defo not kindness and consideration.

    The idea of actually starving someone to death, of withholding liquids is torture, pure and simple. The British people must stop this nonsense of “delicacy” and evasion of facts and, especially, the cowardly, irrational fear of upsetting people, the Truth is paramount and must be upheld. Never mind all the honeyed words. What appears to be happening seems as close to murder as anyone can get.

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  • Kate

    4 May 2016, 6:50pm

    Why have names been changed? The only people who need to hide are those that did wrong - the NHS - wretched heathens!

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    4 May 2016, 9:55pm

    In a letter published in today's Daily Telegraph regarding the news that Do Not Resuscitate notices are being placed on thousands of patients each year without consultation with families, I made exactly the same point as in the conclusion of this report - that each year, thousands of families are being denied the opportunity to support dying family members at a time when they most need help. This precious opportunity comes only once in a lifetime, and the dying individual and their family should be given the chance to say their goodbyes. Neither should the dying patient be denied hydration, but should be made comfortable until nature takes its course – it should never be hastened.

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  • maria

    4 May 2016, 10:10pm

    It is quite horrific to see doctors and nurses planning one s death as is told in this story. Truly families must fight back with all they have and stop these murders as that is what they are...

    What has happened..truly a world without God where man thinks he is god and he will decide who lives and who dies..........

    ..remember .. those who dig a hole for others will fall into it (scripture)

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