Doctor's dilemma over cancer patient

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The Independent Online
A doctor described yesterday how she was accused of taking the moral high ground after she pleaded with a social services manager to help a patient die at home, writes Jeremy Laurence.

Dr Joy Edelman, consultant physician at King George Hospital, Redbridge, north-east London, said her patient who had cancer, was forced to spend his last weeks in hospital separated from his family where he died a lonely and miserable death.

The case was presented to the British Medical Association's annual conference in Edinburgh as an example of how expensive hospital beds are being blocked by a shortage of cheap facilities in the community which prevent the admission of the seriously ill and deny terminal cases a dignified death.

Dr Edelman had contacted social services to obtain a hoist and other equipment and was told there would be a delay. She protested that it would be too late. "The man I spoke to accused me of standing on the moral high ground. I said `yes, and I was proud of it'. I said it was a disgrace that any remaining happiness my patient might have had from his last weeks was being denied to him."

The conference called for proper funding of community care after hearing half of all blocked medical and geriatric hospital beds were occupied by patients who could not be discharged because of a shortage of social services funds.