132.Memorandum from Mrs Eileen McManus
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
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
following World War II the Nazis were tried and convicted
for the same practices that this bill proposes to allow.