More than 450 people died in Gosport War Memorial Hospital after being prescribed “dangerous doses” of clinically unjustified pain killers, a damning new report has found.
An independent panel led by former bishop of Liverpool James Jones concluded that between 1989 and 2000 “the lives of over 450 people were shortened as a direct result of the pattern of prescribing and administering opioids that had become the norm at the hospital, and that probably at least another 200 patients were similarly affected.”
Furthermore, the report said, “there was a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients.”
Another Shipman or institutionalised culture of killing?
This “institutionalised practice of shortening lives” occurred under the direction of clinical assistant Dr Jane Barton, who was responsible for prescriptions made on the wards. In 2010, the General Medical Council ruled that Dr Barton was guilty of multiple instances of professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital, but she was never struck off and has since retired. However, the report found that the fear that they were dealing with “another Dr Shipman” led any investigations to focus solely on whether she was guilty of unlawful killing, rather than pursuing a wider investigation.
In fact, the report says, the “practice of anticipatory prescribing, and of administering certain drugs in circumstances and doses beyond what would have been indicated or justified clinically, involved the consultants, the clinical assistant, the nurses and the pharmacists.”
Non-dying patients put on death pathway
Some nurses had questioned the practise as early as 1991, but their concerns were overlooked. One nurse, Pauline Spilka, described how syringe drivers, a device used to administer a constant dosage of drugs over a period of time, was used. “It was also clear to me that any patient put onto a syringe driver would die shortly after. During the whole time I worked there I do not recall a single instance of a patient not dying having been put onto a driver.”
She also related several shocking stories of the device being used inappropriately. In one case, she came into work to find that a difficult but active and responsive patient, who she had not considered to be near death, was on a syringe driver and unconscious. The nurse responsible wasn’t able to reassure her that the patient had known this action would lead to his death. “Knowing [the patient] as I did I am confident that he to [sic] would not have allowed the introduction of a syringe driver had he known of the outcome…I am concerned that he was certainly not in imminent fear of death when he allowed the syringe driver to be introduced.” Another lady, whose family insisted that medication be stopped and refused the syringe driver, “improved beyond all recognition” and went home, she said.
A police detective, reporting an interview with Nurse Spilka, said: “She describes the ward at [sic] the ‘Dead Loss’ ward as opposed to Daedlus. She describes the regime of [the nurse] as being geared towards euthanasia.” She also said that “indiscriminate use of Syringe Drivers on Patients in the Daedalus Ward at Gosport War Memorial Hospital is my main concern. It appeared to me then and more so now that euthanasia was practised by the nursing staff.”
There were other accusations that euthanasia was taking place. A 2002 expert report by Prof Gary Ford stated: “Routine use of opiate and sedative drug infusions without clear indications for their use would raise concerns that a culture of ‘involuntary euthanasia’ existed on the ward.” A distressed son spoke of his “amazement that I was being asked to sanction what appeared to be euthanasia” on his mother.
Cannot be justified as end of life care
The report also noted a pattern of clinical judgements being made that patients were close to death, regardless of the purpose of their admission or the plan in place. “It may be tempting to view what happened at the hospital in the context of public debate over end of life care, what a ‘good death’ is, and assisted dying,” it said. “That would be a mistake. What happened at the hospital cannot be seen, still less justified, in that context. The patients involved were not admitted for end of life care but often for rehabilitation or respite care. The pattern of prescribing and administering drugs was excessive and inappropriate in the ways explained in this Report.”
Dr Anthony McCarthy of SPUC commented: “The failures recounted in the report are fully consistent with adoption in some quarters of a euthanasiast culture. Such a culture views it as an acceptable solution to replace genuine care with the intention to bring about the early death of vulnerable patients. The systematic failure of both medical and legal bodies to take appropriate action in the face of concerns raised by nurses suggests that constant propaganda in favour of euthanasia and an indulgent attitude to ‘hard cases’ is doing its work. We welcome this report and hope that it awakens everyone to the real dangers posed by a pro-euthanasia climate and the perversion of palliative care. To begin to treat certain lives as unworthy of life, whether through the assessment of the patient or simply that of a doctor or bureaucrat, is to be at odds with the most basic Hippocratic principles and basic justice to vulnerable human beings.”
The families of those who died, who have been campaigning for justice for the last twenty years, are calling for criminal prosecutions to be brought. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was apologised to the families for 20 years “of anguish and pain” and said that he will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether criminal proceedings can be brought.
LifeNews Note: Courtesy of SPUC. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organization in the United Kingdom.