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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Disability rights group criticises end of life care guidelines

7 June 2006

Disability rights group criticises end-of-life care guidelines London, 7June 2006 - No Less Human (NLH), the pro-life disability rights group, has criticised the Introductory guide to end of life care in care homes, produced by the National Health Service and the National Council for Palliative Care. Alison Davis, national coordinator of NLH, who is a full time wheelchair user, said: "Much of the guide is very positive. However, while stating that advance decisions, as part of advance care planning, can be legally binding on doctors, it fails to note the dangers inherent in such decisions. "Patients who make advance refusals of medical treatment may well find that they are not treated for potentially curable or reversible conditions. For instance, it is well known that easily-treatable conditions common in elderly people, such as urinary tract infections or constipation, can cause confusion. If a person had an advance decision declining all treatment in the event of becoming confused, they would not be treated for such simple conditions. They might not die, but their condition might well deteriorate, and become precisely the sort of situation they wanted to avoid. "The guide cites the case history of a 62-year-old man disabled after a stroke, and with additional dementia. His wife requested no further treatment if he developed a chest infection as he had not wanted 'to end his days in dependence' and would have 'hated to be like this.' This shows a clear assumption that the dependence inherent in severe disability is undignified, and that death is preferable, which is a highly prejudicial view of life with a disability. "My mother died in a care home in 2005, and received excellent end of life care. What elderly people in care homes really need is the assurance that they will have a truly good death. What they do not need is to be told that they can decide to refuse treatment in advance, with the aim of hastening their deaths. This is the route to elderly people feeling burdensome and that they have a duty to die. Elderly people deserve better than this."

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