47.Memorandum from Christine Hudson (MIB
1. I am totally against the withdrawal of
life-sustaining treatments and care, including tube feeding, to
mentally incapacitated patients. Such a deliberate act is intentional
killing. It is euthanasia. I disagree with Lord Filkin who has
said that this Bill will provide "protection" for adults
who are mentally incapacitated. Not affording someone basic care,
food and water, when they are at their most vulnerable, in no
way can be described as "protection". What it does indicate,
at a time when the National Health Service is already groaning,
and about to groan some more with a burgeoning elderly population,
is that time and money expended in the care of such patients can
be "better" used elsewhere. Those charged with implementing
this law can rely upon the fact that this decision making process
will never be challenged by the recipients of such treatment as
they are not only mentally incapacitated but will end up dead
as a resultan ideal situation!
2. For centuries, doctors have exercised
their expertise under the directive of the Hippocratic Oath, "First,
do no harm". However one tries to rationalise and intellectualise
what is proposed, being starved and dehydrated to death, is a
very painful experience, a barbaric practice and in total contravention
of the aims of the Hippocratic Oath. We would not treat an animal
like this, especially in this country, so why are we proposing
to do this to human beings? It might be as well to remember that
the Hippocratic Oath was formulated to combat a situation where
patients no longer trusted their doctors to serve their best interests
and I think it is to the shame of a so-called civilised society
that such a situation will inevitably arise again if this Bill
becomes law. Only in situations such as at the very end of life,
when sometimes swallowing or assimilating food can be a burden,
would it be legitimate to withhold food or fluids for the comfort
of the patient.
3. To perceive people living with a profound
disability like PVS as tantamount to being as good as dead or
having "no best interests", (according to Lord Mustill,
a member of the appellate Committee of the House of Lords which
decided the Bland case) is so wrong. It is the stark philosophy
of "survival of the fittest" being put into action.
It violates every respect and dignity due to that person as a
fellow member of the human race. There are few moral convictions
more deeply ingrained than the sanctity of human life. Life has
always been seen as a basic good and there is no stronger human
instinct than self-preservation. Even the term, Persistent Vegetative
State is derogatory as it implies that profoundly disabled people
can be compared to vegetables. Laws are meant to protect fundamental
human rights which is why existing laws have never permitted the
intentional killing of an innocent person by either act or omission.
If this Bill is passed in its present form, it will permit euthanasia
by neglect and omission and will have started the slippery slope
to so-called "mercy killings". The British Medical Association
has publicly stated that it wants to extend this law to patients
suffering strokes and advanced dementia and the pro-euthanasia
groups are already straining at the leash. I admit that I find
it hard to understand why profoundly disabled patients achieve
dignity only in death. My own daughter, until last year, was a
Staff Nurse on a stroke unit. She was unhappy about several decisions
concerning profoundly disabled stroke patients and in one instance
was reprimanded by the consultant in charge for being instrumental
in getting an incapacitated patient who was being starved, tube
fed. She has now left nursing to have her first baby and has not
renewed her UKCC registration as she is adamant that she will
not be going back to nursing.
4. If a person "ill treats or wilfully
neglects" a mentally incapacitated person in their care,
the Bill makes provision for that person to be punished. I see
these as weasel words! Do those who drew up the Bill not see that
starving and dehydrating a vulnerable person to death is in itself
"wilful neglect"? Tony Bland was not, as is popularly
believed, on a lifesupport machine at the time the Courts
decided to count tube feeding as medical treatment. He was cold-bloodedly
starved to death. Lord Justice Hoffman, concerning the 1993 Bland
case, noted that: "If someone allows a small child or invalid
in his care to starve to death, we do not say that he allowed
nature to take its course. We think that he has committed a particularly
wicked crime. We treat him as if he had introduced an external
agency of death. It is the same ethical principle, which requires
doctors and hospitals to provide patients in their care with such
medical attention and nursing as they are reasonably able to give.
The giving of food to a needy person is so much the quintessential
example of kindness and humanity that it is hard to imagine a
case in which it would be morally right to withhold it."
Lord Mustill noted that the Bland Judgement left the law "Morally
and intellectually misshapen".
5. I am most unhappy with the term "best
interests" as defined in the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill.
This Bill interprets these interests as the "wishes and feelings"
of the incapacitated persona very whimsical notion. I am
also unhappy about the proposed binding status of Advanced Directives.
I have a now elderly relative who has suffered from a personality
disorder all her life. This has provoked regular periods of severe
depression, leading to episodes of extreme confusion and numerous
attempts at self harm and suicide. In between these episodes,
she leads a normal life, living and caring for herself and helping
at village events. Her periods of normality last for a couple
of years at a time. When she is depressed, she feels that she
would be better off dead and wants to die. I have recently discovered
that in one of her depressive modes, she completed an Advanced
Directive from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society asking not to
be resuscitated, which she has not retracted. Under the afore-mentioned
terms of this Bill, Peggy, who is now seventy five years old,
would no longer be with us.
6. The draft Mental Incapacity Bill, make
no mistake, IS legalising euthanasia. I believe in respect for
all human life, no matter how profoundly disabled. Any act or
omission with the deliberate intent to bring about the death of
that person is wrong. The doctor must always seek the patient's
restoration of health, preservation of life, prevention of impairment
and alleviation from suffering.
7. Before I end, I would like to register
a protest at the extremely short consultation period afforded
by the government for such an important piece of legislation.
I am having to take time out to write this letter the day before
I go off on holiday when I have many other things to do with a