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EDITIONS
Euthanasia Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 16:24 GMT
Whose decision is it anyway?
Ken taylor
Dr Ken Taylor took the decision to end treatment
Mary Ormerod's doctor and daughters left her to starve to death in a nursing home.

They had taken a conscious decision to withhold a nutritional supplement called Fresubin from the 85-year-old after she ceased to communicate with the outside world.

She weighed less than four stone when she died in August 1995.

Mrs Ormerod had suffered a series of strokes, and the only way she could be kept alive was to force feed her through a syringe.

Suspension for GP

But Dr Ken Taylor, the GP who took the decision, was suspended by the General Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, after nurses at the home complained about his actions.

They had opposed his decision to withdraw treatment, and had secretly given food to Mrs Ormerod.

The GMC was faced with a difficult decision.

The doctor had told the hearing he took the decision to withdraw the food supplement because feeding the woman was "inhumane" and "stressful" to her family and medical staff.

And he had consulted the patient's family before acting.

In the end he was suspended for six months - not directly because of his treatment of Mrs Ormerod, but because he failed to listen to nurses and consult colleagues.

In fact, he had done nothing legally wrong in starving Mrs Ormerod.

This is because, under a House of Lords ruling, artificial nutrition and hydration is regarded as medical treatment.

The British Medical Association's ethics committee says there are occasions when it is no longer in the patient's best interests to continue it.

The association will issue new guidelines on withdrawing nutrition for terminally ill patients later this year.

But Mike Willis, of the Pro-life Alliance, said at the time of the Mrs Ormerod's case that it was disgraceful for nutrition and hydration to be regarded as "treatment".

"They are not medical treatments, they are basic human needs," he said.

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26 Mar 99 | Health
16 Mar 99 | Health
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