Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

132.Memorandum from Mrs Eileen McManus (MIB 1073)

  1.  Having worked in the NHS for over 40 years, both as a nurse and as a Chartered Physiotherapist, I am making this submission because the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill raises alarm in me and, I am sure, terror, in elderly, disabled or mentally infirm patients and/or their carers.

  In any situation when working with people it is essential to have their confidence and co-operation. This is particularly necessary when helping people recover from illness, accidents or disabling events. If this Bill becomes law it will make it impossible for patients and their relations to trust that their doctors, nurses and therapists have their welfare at heart. Not a good basis for delivering healthcare.


  2.  Normally doctors acting in the patients "best interests" will take account only of the basic tenets of medicines: to save life, minimise suffering and restore health. However the Mental Incapacity Bill defines "best interests" as the wishes and feelings of the patient. None of us know how we will feel about our life ahead of the life-threatening or disabling event. Decisions made when younger and healthier should not be binding for the rest of life. Being killed by any means can never be in the patient's best interest.


  3.  This will allow the person appointed power, not only over financial matters but also over life and death if the patient is deemed to have lost the capacity to make their own decisions. This is so obviously open to abuse, particularly if the appointee can benefit in any way from the patient's death and has no built in safeguard for the patient as the very people who should be protecting the patient's life, their doctors and nurses, have to listen to the person with the power of attorney. People suffering from confusion but otherwise fit could have food and water withheld from them on the grounds that they had no quality of life. This is a judgement nobody can make about another.


  4.  Surely the provisions in this bill are totally incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights? In particular, the Bill's recognition and implementation of advance refusal of treatment. In no other situation is "hearsay evidence" allowed but statements made in the past, under very different circumstances, before unqualified or even biased people will be deemed to be sacrosanct if this bill becomes law.

  5.  On a personal note, as a very young nurse I helped care for a young man paralysed totally from the neck down after a car crash the day before his wedding. Whilst being cared for he would beg to be allowed to die. His fianceé was at his bedside every day and he ranted at her to go and let him die. She stayed, and gradually with love, care and rehabilitation, he was able to sit in a wheelchair and she learnt how to manage. She never gave up on him; the physiotherapists worked hard with him but it was his fianceés love and devotion that made the difference. The couple married and lived happy and fulfilled lives together. This was surely a better resolution than killing someone who was, quite naturally, depressed just after the accident when everything looked so bleak.

  6.  In conclusion I would like to point out that:


    disabled people have the same right to life as everyone else;


    food and water have the same purpose for disabled people as everyone else;


    disabled people do not achieve "dignity" only in death;


    we abolished the death penalty for murderers on the grounds that it was inhuman in a civilised society. How can we then allow the proposed killing of our vulnerable young, old and disabled? and


    following World War II the Nazis were tried and convicted for the same practices that this bill proposes to allow.

August 2003

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