PARLIAMENT: HEALTH - MP plans bill to ban starving of patients

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A TORY MP last night announced that she is ready to take on the medical profession over allegations that euthanasia is being routinely practised in NHS hospitals.

Ann Winterton, the chairman of the all-party Pro-Life Group, said she will introduce a private member's Bill to outlaw the removal of food and drink from patients.

The Bill, which is certain to provoke a full-scale Commons row over euthanasia, follows a controversy over allegations that elderly patients have been allowed to starve to death in hospitals by doctors acting under guidelines allowing clinicians to withdraw treatment. The BMA made it clear it would advise MPs to vote against the Bill. "The BMA would oppose any legislation that directed doctors to continue treatment beyond the point where it would benefit the patient," the BMA said in a statement.

Mrs Winterton, the Conservative MP for Congleton, who came top in the ballot of MPs for the right to introduce legislation, said: "It is a tragedy that there is a need for such a Bill but patients, particularly the old and vulnerable, need to be reassured that when they go into hospital they will receive nursing care and medical treatment that they need."

She said patients also needed reassurance "that their lives will not be forfeit as a result of bed shortages, the greed of beneficiaries who stand to inherit, or doctors acting in the misguided and illegal belief that they have either the right or the duty to determine which lives are worth living and which are not".

At a news conference in Westminster, she said: "My Bill will make it abundantly clear to doctors that they cannot intentionally bring about the deaths of their patients either by action or by omission."

Voluntary euthanasia is illegal in Britain, although there are campaigners for the law to be liberalised. But the campaign group, Right to Life, which has drawn up Mrs Winterton's Bill, believes euthanasia is being practised.

The Bill is likely to be blocked by Labour MPs who believe doctors should be able to save patients from unnecessary suffering, but it is guaranteed a full-day's second reading debate and it is certain to raise wider concerns.