Elderly Patients Dying of Thirst, British Doctors Prescribe Water

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2011   |   1:50PM   |   London, England

Sadly, this news article in the London Daily Mail about medical and treatment conditions for elderly patients in England is going to become altogether too common.

As populations of most countries see baby boomers move into their 70s and 80s and become increasingly reliant on support from government or families, and as the quality of life ethic continues taking hold in the world of medicine and mainstream culture, the elderly will suffer more as the pro-euthanasia mentality becomes one of neglect.

From the story:

Doctors are prescribing drinking water for neglected elderly patients to stop them dying of thirst in hospital. The measure – to remind nurses of the most basic necessity – is revealed in a damning report on pensioner care in NHS wards. Some trusts are neglecting the elderly on such a fundamental level their wards could face closure orders.

The snapshot study, triggered by a Mail campaign, found staff routinely ignored patients’ calls for help and forgot to check that they had had enough to eat and drink.

Dehydration contributes to the death of more than 800 hospital patients every year.Another 300 die malnourished. The latest report – by the Care Quality Commission – found patients frequently complained they were spoken to in a ‘condescending and dismissive’ manner.

The watchdog said three of 12 NHS trusts visited in the past three months were failing to meet the most basic standards required by law.


Some people reject life saving medical treatment they consider the be prolonging the inevitability of death. But this situation in England — which will be seen in the United States if Obamacare and government-run health care gains a greater foothold — is nothing like that. Simple giving a patient or an elderly person food and water is providing them the basic necessities every person — able bodied, healthy or not — require.


Since February, a team of inspectors from the CQC – including a nurse and an elderly patient – have been visiting 100 NHS trusts unannounced to check elderly patients are treated with dignity.

They found other, less serious concerns at a further three trusts: Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Homerton University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London and the Wye Valley NHS Trust  – meaning just half of hospitals were providing the most basic standards of care.

The results of the remaining trusts will be published later this year but the watchdog said the findings from this first wave of inspections was likely to be a ‘snapshot’ of all hospitals across the country.

At Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire, inspectors reported ‘major’ concerns on nutrition. Doctors often have to prescribe ‘drinking water’ for patients to ensure nurses remember to give them enough fluids.

At Ipswich Hospital, the elderly are made to suffer the indignity of using a commode by their bedside because staff are too busy to take them to the toilet.

Inspectors also found routine examples of patients’ meals being dumped by their bed while they were asleep and then taken away again untouched.

Emergency call buttons are often left out of patients’ reach and they often have to press them seven times before a nurse responds. One elderly man was forced to attract attention by banging on his water jug or shouting.

Other concerns included staff not closing the curtains around a patient’s bed before examining them. The three failing trusts will be given several months to improve before being inspected again. If they are still not deemed to be up to scratch the worst could be fined, and the relevant wards shut down.

These stories remind of the debate over the life of and death of Terri Schiavo — as her former husband denied her family’s desire to provide her proper medical care and rehabilitative treatment. Ultimately, she was purposefully denied the food and water she needed to stay alive and she eventually endured a painful 13-day starvation and dehydration death. This neglect is just as bad and the staff and facilities responsible for the deaths of patients due to their improper care and lack of attention to their basic needs should be fired or shut down immediately.