The heartbroken son of an elderly woman has alleged that his mother perished in a protracted death due to dehydration and malnutrition, resulting from carers ceasing to provide her with food or water over the course of 28 days.
After enduring a stroke four weeks ago, Sarene Taylor, 88 years old, was admitted to the hospital in North Wales. Regrettably, doctors informed Rob Taylor they had reached their limit and commenced end-of-life care by discontinuing her sustenance and hydration.
Mr. Taylor, a distinguished and revered former North Wales rural police officer, deplored the current end-of-life care system as ‘inhumane’ and ‘heartbreaking’ for families who experience it, calling on society to make improvements.
He relayed the details of his mother’s passing to North Wales Police and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, in order to provide an accurate account.
Despite the fact that it was abolished around a decade ago, an investigative report commissioned by members of parliament and peers has found that elderly and vulnerable people are still being placed on end-of-life ‘death pathways’.
In 2014, the widely debated Liverpool Care Pathway was outlawed following reports of individuals placed on it who had a good chance of surviving. The pathway entails instructions for possibly withdrawing life-saving treatment from dying patients.
Mr. Taylor stated: ‘I understand end-of-life care, and the carers and district nurses do a fantastic job.’
‘But to deny a human being food and water is disgraceful and we as a society need to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.’
He continued: ‘The family thanks everyone for their kind messages and loving support during these past weeks.’
In an affecting video prior to his mother’s passing, Mr. Taylor articulated the heartbreaking circumstance of his family.
‘My mum, 88 years of age, had a fantastic life, but sadly four weeks ago today, she was admitted to a hospital in North Wales, with what we found out to be a stroke,’ he stated.
‘I obviously went up to be with her and spend time with her – on Monday which is three weeks gone – and this Monday the doctor told me that there was nothing more they could do for her sadly and all fluids and food were withdrawn and she was put on end-of-life care.
‘I spent quite a lot of time with her – and then on leaving and waiting for the phone call, because I had to go somewhere else unfortunately, I then discovered I had caught Covid, so I couldn’t immediately go back – on Wednesday, just gone three weeks ago – I was told we had to take her from the hospital.
‘So arranged for her to be taken back to the care home.
‘This is not a story about illegality or legality, it’s about ethics.
‘My mum is still alive – 24 to 25 days in without any food, any water, no IV drip, nothing – she’s still alive.
‘It’s inhumane and absolutely harrowing to the family and inhumane.
‘That such a precious lady has been allowed to lie on a bed in a care home – in fairness being seen once a day by a district nurse and they do an outstanding job, it’s nothing against them or the care home – but it’s the ethics that she is just left to die, slowly from dehydration and malnutrition in front of our very eyes.
‘This is how you would treat people back in the 11th and 12th century – not 2023. It’s absolutely harrowing.
There is nothing we can do, absolutely nothing we can do – and they have been wonderful, it’s just that it’s incredible that she’s probably suffering and it’s heartbreaking, it’s absolutely heartbreaking for us.’
Andrea Hughes, Director of Nursing for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s East Integrated Health Community, stated: ‘We offer our sincere condolences to Mrs. Taylor’s family for their very sad loss.
‘While we cannot comment on individual cases in any detail, we were in daily contact with Mr. Taylor about his mother’s care and we are investigating concerns that he has raised.’
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, stated: ‘I would like to offer my condolences to Mr Taylor and his family following the loss of his mother.
‘Mr. Taylor has contacted me and I am in the process of seeking further details from him about his mother’s experiences. As such, I am unable to comment further at this stage.’
A recent report uncovered that the elderly and vulnerable are still being subjected to an end-of-life ‘death pathway’ – a practice officially abolished nearly ten years ago.
In 2014, the widely debated Liverpool Care Pathway – a set of instructions that could include taking away lifesaving treatment from patients nearing death – was forbidden following reports of individuals being placed on it who might have been able to survive.
Nevertheless, a survey commissioned by MPs and peers ascertained that the LCP is still essentially being deployed in some form or another.
This report paints a sobering picture, outlining sixteen heartbreaking stories of patients who succumbed to the LCP-style treatment with the youngest being only 21 years old.
Professor Sam Ahmedzai, one of the authors of the report and a retired palliative care consultant, expressed he was ‘shocked’ last night at hearing how those in power had mistreated people. It is incomprehensible for him to comprehend why such negligent behavior happened from those who ‘should have known better.’
Following the ‘LCP’, patients were frequently put on the pathway before necessary, and as a result, they would endure hefty doses of sedatives and painkillers to ease their suffering – through this really just expedited death. Furthermore, these people were often deprived of nutrition or hydration which significantly weakened them until it became inevitable for them to pass away.
Despite its discontinuation, Prof Ahmedzai discovered that LCP-style treatments continue to this day.
In his report, the 16 highlighted that medics had implemented an inflexible “one-size fits all, tick-box approach”, adding ‘Thus in many of our case studies, patients … were experiencing an end-of-life care pathway which was similar to the LCP in all but name.’
In 10 instances, families questioned physicians as to whether the LCP was being properly applied; however, Professor Ahmedzai reported that ‘this was denied.’
Unconscionable end-of-life decisions were made ‘unilaterally’ by doctors, leaving some patients vulnerable and powerless.
In October 2016, 21-year-old Laura Jane Booth tragically passed away while in the hospital after receiving an eye operation. She had been suffering from Patau’s syndrome, a genetic disorder.
Her parents stated: ‘She had no nutrition for the entire three-and-a-half weeks she was in.’
Even over the course of three days in intensive care, ‘still nobody did anything about Laura not feeding’.
Unbeknownst to them, she was already gone when they assumed she had simply undergone routine surgery. ‘Nobody ever told us that she was on an end-of-life care pathway.’
Initially, Laura’s death certificate labeled her passing as a result of natural causes. After persistent advocacy for an inquest to take place in 2021, a revised document was issued specifying that ‘malnutrition contributed to her death’.
At the inquest, her parents argued that medical professionals ‘tried to say that Laura had outlived her time with multiple conditions’.
In an unfortunate incident, a nurse’s report of putting an 84-year-old man on ‘the pathway’ ended up costing him his life.
In late August 2021, David – who had been suffering from heart failure – expected to have a brief operation to address fluid retention before returning home. However, he was never given the opportunity and stayed in the hospital until his last breath.
Within two days of his admittance, a consultant informed David’s family that he was rapidly on the decline and had declined any further medical intervention.
The doctor advised that continuing with fluids, nutrition, and heart failure drugs would only ‘prolong his suffering’. His family vividly remembers these words. A nurse told them he had been put on ‘the pathway’.
A few days later, he passed away. His family strongly believes that the lack of hydration, nutrition and his medications expedited his death.
Professor Ahmedzai revealed that the consultant engaged in a dialogue with the family ‘bears the hallmarks of the types of conversation carried out [before 2014] when the LCP was still in use’. Certain locales had been slow to discontinue the LCP and only implemented ‘merely cosmetic changes’.
After witnessing her own father’s death, Denise Charlesworth-Smith spearheaded the resistance against the LCP. She collected hundreds of family stories and narrowed it down to 16 poignant examples that revealed the gravity of this situation.
She stated that when the LCP was abandoned, the circumstances looked promising. Nevertheless, by 2018 she had been contacted by a growing number of families who claimed new regulations were not being heeded.
The Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group initiated a report which brought to light ‘unacceptable’ practices, according to chair Carla Lockhart of the DUP MP.
A representative from the National Health Service shared that local health systems are required to design end-of-life care plans that reflect NICE regulations, which dictate individuals should receive personalized planning.
‘NHS England has also established the medical examiner program which aims to provide a better service for the bereaved, including giving the opportunity for families to speak to an independent doctor not involved in the care of their loved one to ask questions and raise any concerns.’
With the intent to guarantee patients get the treatment they desire in an emergency and avoid any care that is undesirable to them, The Resuscitation Council has created a program known as ‘ReSPECT’ – Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment.
According to Sue Hampshire, the clinical director, ‘Having clear recommendations for a person’s care and treatment when they are well is vital so that in a future emergency, in which they don’t have the ability to make or express what is important to them, there is a robust and recognizable plan that their family and healthcare team know.
‘That is why Resuscitation Council UK is leading on the UK-wide adoption of the ReSPECT process, which goes beyond End-of-Life Care, it’s about all of us at all stages of life having a ReSPECT plan.’