“What a drag it is getting old” drawled Mick Jagger in 1966, and I have to agree with him. Especially in view of the way we treat the elderly in this country. In other countries and cultures the older generation is revered and respected. In the UK we lock them up in piss reeking care homes, where they are sometimes neglected and abused. Abuse does of course exist within families as well but often, thankfully, elderly relatives are lovingly cared for in heart breaking situations. As a whole society we have a shameful attitude towards the older generation. We have a systematic disregard for their wellbeing and seem to have ceased seeing them as individuals but rather as a burden on society, a guilty secret that we wish we could get rid of.
I was shocked recently to read about the Liverpool Care Pathway, a scheme that offers incentives to NHS trusts to put people on a plan to expediate their deaths. Many elderly people have been rushed onto this plan, without it being checked whether or not they could re-cover from their conditions. This has in reality turned out to be nothing short of state sponsored euthanasia. It has been introduced slyly and quietly, after all what’s a few old people compared to dealing with over population and the pension gap? I find the concept of deliberate dehydration to bring about someone’s demise a deeply troubling idea and surely open to abuse as highlighted with the criticism of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
Many Doctors may queue up to tell me it ultimately prevents a lot of suffering, but that is not the issue as I see it, it is more whether any of us would be terribly surprised if the government just came out with a scheme saying that everyone over the age of 70 had to take a visit to a swiss clinic or as portrayed in Children of Men by PD James had to endure a bizarre ritual in which they were basically drowned in the sea? Seriously, be honest, would you be surprised? We treat our elderly with such little dignity and care, is this such a big leap? The Liverpool Care Pathway has shown that the government quangos and think tanks are steering policy towards this dystopian nightmare, revealing a deep malaise within our society.
Handing out incentives to NHS trusts to put a targeted amount of people on a scheme that speeds up their death! Does any of that sentence seem ok to you?