Page 3, 4th August 2000

4th August 2000
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Page 3, 4th August 2000 — Euthanasia Bill to return to Parliament

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Locations: London, Portsmouth


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Euthanasia Bill to return to Parliament

By Cltra Sidhu and Tom Mason

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to bring an unsuccessful Bill to outlaw euthanasia back to Parliament.

Government delay tactics earlier this year prevented Tory MP Ann Winterton's Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill from reaching the statute books.

The Bill would have reversed the Bland Judgement of 1993 and made it unlawful to starve and dehydrate patients to death, a practice which some groups claim is used increasingly in the health service.

Mrs Winterton is determined to re-introduce the Bill when Parliament meets again in November. She said: "When I introduced this Bill I knew it would be exceptionally difficult to steer it through all its parliamentary stages and on to the statute book.

"Nevertheless, it has achieved a great deal in publicising the issue and has sent a clear signal to both the British Medical Association and the Government that euthanasia, whether by action or omission, is unacceptable to the people of this country."

The move was announced as the Court of Appeal reduced the sentences of three people found guilty of assaulting doctors. A fracas broke out in St Mary's Hospital, Portsmouth, after staff tried to stop the three from unplugging a diamorphine pump attached to their disabled nephew, David Glass, 13. The doctors later admitted the actions of the family stopped the boy from dying.

Diane Wild, 42, had her 12month sentence slashed to six months, while Julie Hodgson, 37 and Raymond Davis, 43 each had their nine-month sentences cut to four months.

The court made it clear that the reduction was the result solely of a consideration of David's "care package". Mr Justice Holman said: "Hospital staff have to be protected from vilification or assault and must be able to go about their business without interference . . the court didn't consider the sentences excessive or wrong in principle."

David's mother, Carol, said afterwards: "Old people and the disabled are being killed off every day. I'm disgusted by the ruling. The wrong people are in prison."

A spokesman for the antieuthanasia group Alert added: "If doctors are free to arrange their patients' deaths and noone may stop them, why was Dr Shipman convicted for making this 'hard decision' 15 times over?"

Meanwhile, the practice of giving the elderly and mentally-incapacitated drugs hidden inside food and drink in care homes was highlighted this week by a team of doctors in south east London. Led by Dr Adrian Treloar, a psychia trist from Memorial Hospital, it surveyed 34 residential, nursing and in-patient hospital units for people suffering from dementia and found that nearly three quarters of the homes admitted the practice at least occurred.occurred The team discovered it was so widespread, a directive in one home suggested the use of marshmallows so capsules could be "popped inside". In another, pills were hidden in sandwiches, In spite of the possibility of fatal reactions between the drugs and some foods, only three homes ever consulted a pharmacist.

In a report in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the team concluded that even if covert medication could sometimes be justified, there was still serious concern over the lack of policies governing its use. It also raised concern about secrecy surrounding the practice as well as the grave risk of abuse without proper monitoring and recording.

Dr Treloar said: "There is a significant amount of abuse of patients thought to be incapacitated.

"We know enduring powers of attorney are frequently subjected to fraud and abuse and that appointees don't always act to the benefit of individuals in about 15 per cent of the cases, which is quite a lot. Safeguards are required."

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