The Long Goodbye

When I started nursing, the very first lecturer asked us all a question:
“Why do people come into hospital?”

Hands shot up. It was obvious.
“People come into hospital to get better.”

The lecturer shook her head.
“In many cases, people come into hospital to die. We help them to do that with dignity, with care, with compassion.”

It is something people seem unable to grasp, today; that, one day, we shall, as a natural part of life, die.
We have seen, recently, the new phenomenon of Medicine By Media – the ignorant and sheeplike furore caused by the media’s vilification of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
It was formulated – not so long ago – by the Liverpool Hospice Movement, as a protocol for giving a framework to the business of compassionately treating people with terminal cancer.
It was broadened when NICE decided it was an excellent, evidence-based protocol.

The hospice movement adopted it wholeheartedly, and the NHS embraced it. At last there could be an end to indecision regarding good, end-of-life care.

It was not always perfectly applied. This is life; motor cars may not always be well driven, and may cause premature death by this misapplication of their purpose, but we would not hysterically demand that all motor vehicles be removed from the roads.

Medicine by Media is a dangerous and stupid phenomenon. It is the unlearned preaching to the ignorant. It is neither evidence based nor anything other than a means to sell newspapers.

And now, when your parent/sibling/child is moving toward the end of their life, they will no longer have the safeguard of an evidence based, sound protocol to stop their suffering. Indeed, such suffering will be prolonged as doctors – nervous at being sued for not doing everything they can to prolong life – will subject your loved one to envy procedure to prolong such, whether this causes discomfort, trauma or pain.

When I am – at whatever point – at the end of my life, I hope and pray I will be nursed and succoured not by the media-driven need to extend my hold on life, but by a protocol that gives me dignity, compassion and a pain free exit from this world of shadows and dreams.