LONDON The British end-of-life protocol known as the Liverpool Care Pathway is being used for the deaths of sick children and disabled newborns.
Health care providers supposedly were using the Pathway only for terminally ill adults and the elderly, but an article in the British Medical Journal showed they also are withholding food, water and medicine from children, the Daily Mail reported.
In the journal article, an unnamed physician reported he had supervised the starvation and dehydration deaths of 10 babies in one neonatal unit.
While parents want their children to die quickly without suffering, those desires conflict with his experience, the doctor wrote.
"Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child's physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues," he said of a process that has a median time from withdrawal of fluids to death of 10 days.
While he tries to prepare parents so they will not make a choice they regret, the doctor wrote, "I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken...."
A hospice pediatric nurse criticized the use of the Pathway for children.
"The parents feel coerced, at a very traumatic time, into agreeing that this is correct for their child whom they are told by doctors only has a few days to live," Bernadette Lloyd wrote in a letter to the Department of Health, according to the Daily Mail. "It is very difficult to predict death. I have seen a 'reasonable' number of children recover after being taken off the pathway."
She also said," I have also seen children die in terrible thirst because fluids are withdrawn from them until they die.... This is euthanasia by the backdoor."
American pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith agreed with Lloyd.
"You watch: The way things are going in the [United Kingdom], the answer won't be to stop dehydrating, but to lethally inject," Smith wrote on his blog.