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Dr Adiran Treloar
"I have had calls from concerned relatives"
 real 28k

BMA ethics committee chairman Dr Michael Wilks
"Doctors have an ethical duty to consider withdrawing treatment"
 real 28k

Andy Allsopp, from Age Concern
"We want the NHS to review all its policies on elderly people"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 13:19 GMT
NHS euthanasia claims ludicrous'
Ward The NHS is accused of "involuntary euthanasia"

A senior consultant's claim that elderly patients are being left to starve to death in NHS hospitals has been dismissed by Health Secretary Alan Miburn as "ludicrous".

Health: Background Briefing: Euthanasia
Dr Adrian Treloar, a consultant in old age psychiatry and senior lecturer in geriatrics at the Greenwich Hospital and Guys', King's and St Thomas's Hospitals in London, said there was an unofficial policy of "involuntary euthanasia".

He said patients were being denied appropriate treatment partly because of the huge pressures on beds building up in the health service.

Dr Adrian Treloar Dr Adrian Treloar claims the elderly do not always get proper care
Police are reported to be investigating 60 cases involving pensioners who died after allegedly being deprived of food and water by hospital staff

Detectives in Derbyshire have filed a report, said to run into several thousand pages, to the Crown Prosecution Service, after a 22-month inquiry at the Kingsway Hospital in Derby.

The investigation is understood to centre on the deaths of around 30 elderly patients.

A pressure group formed by relatives, SOS NHS Patients in Danger, is considering taking the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.

But, speaking on the Today programme on Wednesday, Mr Milburn said: "If the allegation is that the NHS is routinely starving elderly people to make more room in hospitals it is simply untrue, it is ludicrous, it is scaremongering.

"Frankly, it is also an attack on the integrity of doctors and nurses who spend most of their working day caring for elderly patients."

It is very clear that the elderly do not always get all the care they need
Dr Adrian Treloar
Dr Treloar told the BBC on Tuesday: "It is very clear that the elderly do not always get all the care they need."

He was also quoted in an interview with the Daily Telegraph as saying "there may be a tendency" to limit care for the elderly who are very seriously ill to relieve severe pressure on NHS beds.

He claimed that old people who start to resist early discharge are seen as "an encumbrance".

Dr Treloar said he had heard many allegations from families of relatives being denied treatment and left to die in NHS wards.

BMA guidelines

Dr Michael Wilks Dr Michael Wilks said the guidance was drawn up to end confusion
Recent British Medical Association (BMA) guidelines say doctors should be allowed to authorise withdrawal of food and water by tube for victims of severe stroke and dementia who can no longer express their wishes.

The guidance says: "Doctors should have the final say over whether treatment including feeding and giving water is in the patient's best interest. It is not always appropriate to prolong life."

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's ethics committee, said the guidelines were drawn up because of widespread confusion among doctors about what was acceptable practice.

"We tried to help doctors work through a clinical framework, working out whether the particular treatment - which might include artificial nutrition and hydration - was in fact of benefit to the patient.

"When you have a treatment that is of no further benefit you have an ethical responsibility to at least consider withdrawing it."

Dr Wilks said it still unacceptable for doctors to withdraw treatment specifically to kill patients.

Call for government action

The charity for the elderly, Age Concern, demanded urgent government action and accused the NHS of adopting a culture of ageism and rampant discrimination.

Sally Greengross, Age Concern director general, said: "We have been contacted by thousands of people who have complained about the treatment of the elderly in the NHS system.

"What this senior consultant has said links very closely with our own findings. We need urgent legislation to prevent this discrimination."

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See also:
23 Jun 99 |  Health
Doctors allowed to let patients die
08 Jul 99 |  Health
BMA stands by end-of-life guidance
23 Jun 99 |  Health
BMA guidance: The main points
28 Oct 99 |  Health
Mood swings 'create euthanasia danger'

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