Normalisation of cruelty in NHS should stop MPs legalising euthanasia in 2013

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Minister, has starkly criticised the NHS for treating patients with contempt, coldness, indifference, cruelty and even resentment. He went so far as to admit that in the worst cases there has been a ‘normalisation of cruelty.’ Jeremy Hunt’s frank assessment of the mistreatment experienced by many NHS patients should be bourne in mind by MPs in the New Year when they, yet again, consider a bill seeking to legalise assisted suicide.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

‘In the worse cases staff have overseen “a kind of normalisation of cruelty”, Jeremy Hunt told an audience of health professionals at The King’s Fund, a London-based think-tank.

Managers were so “buried in spreadsheets” that they had become “blind” to the fact that patients were not being treated with dignity or respect, he said. Poor care had become “perhaps the biggest problem of all facing the NHS”, Mr Hunt claimed in his strongest speech yet on the NHS, almost three months into his tenure as Health Secretary.

In a passionate speech, Mr Hunt cited numerous examples of appalling NHS care.
He said: “Just look at what has come to light in the last few years: patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital, with members of the public taking soiled sheets home to wash because they didn’t believe the hospital would do it.

“The man with dementia who was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes who managed to leave Pontypool Hospital and drown.

“The residents kicked punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair and forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View.

“The elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court Care Home.

“The cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn’t listen or check his medical records.”

These were not “isolated incidents”, he said, but appeared with such “depressing regularity” that they indicated problems which were in places “part of the fabric”.
He continued: “The most worrying thing is the fact that in certain institutions this kind of care appears to have become normal.

“In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt.
“Go deeper and look at the worst cases like Mid Staffs and Winterbourne View, and there is something even darker: a kind of normalisation of cruelty where the unacceptable is legitimised and the callous becomes mundane.”

Up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died over several years at Mid Staffordshire hospitals due to shocking care, which saw some resorting to drinking water from flower vases.

Protect the Pope comment: Does anyone seriously doubt that in certain hospitals and residential homes doctors and nurses perpetrating the normalisation of cruelty would force vulnerable patients to kill themselves through bullying? The Health Minister’s frank and shocking admission of the abuse of patients in the NHS should figure prominently when MPs debate and vote on assisted suicide in January.

Written safeguards are not going to be enough to save patients from such callousness, contempt and resentment.

25 comments to Normalisation of cruelty in NHS should stop MPs legalising euthanasia in 2013

  • Karla

    When many in society do not respect life in its beginning this is no surprise

  • John Dare

    If readers go to the end of the piece, they’ll also find Mr Hunt’s commrents on ‘the majority’ of NHS staff.

  • Genty

    When moral guidance has been lost, or not even known, this is what happens. I don’t think any of us can sit back comfortably and say: “I’d never do that.” Because without the guiding force of Christ’s teaching informing the way we live, we humans are capable of anything.

    • John Dare

      Thats a pretty broad comment Genty. I assume that we don’t know the faith of the NHS staff at Mid Staffs, or the care staff at the private care home?

    • Eric

      I’m not sure it is lack of knowing what the moral action is that is the problem. The stumbling block isn’t usually lack of knowledge of what is the right thing to do, it is actually doing the right thing. And that is true of people of all sorts of religious faith and none.

  • Eric

    You are right. Even supporters of euthanasia would not want to trust some parts of the NHS with it.

  • Robin Leslie

    At last someone has woken up! Cruelty of which Jeremy Hunt speaks is, of course, endemic
    to this country, a country mired in hatreds of one sort or another. We only have to think of the bile and hostility reserved for ‘unproductive’ people, benefit claimants, damaged children,
    prisoners, immigrants etc. to see where it comes from. Neglecting and killing captive hospitalized elderly is simply an obvious example. Here are defenceless often physically weak
    persons who are entirely at the mercy of those who ‘care’ for them. In a society deeply
    divided and consumed by conflicts, we should have been far more aware of this scapegoating violence creeping into what sociologists call ‘total institutions’ first of all.
    In fact you can see the political and social catastrophe happening all around us in the UK.
    Increasingly people are being herded into heavily policed rundown estates, huge hospitals,
    increasingly restricted public spaces, larger universities, people ghettoed in one-layer
    estates and over it all looms the dictatorship of money which decides on the fate of each!
    Wake up everybody the relentless Lie of neo-liberalism is killing everything in sight, our natural habitat, the creatures that populate that habitat, our fellow men and women. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born, toiled and died in a similar set of circumstances. Perhaps we could start to confront our affliction sooner rather than later, all the evidence is there in front of us!

  • ms catholic state

    It’s only going to get worse. Secularists have no moral compunction to act with compassion if they don’t feel like it.

    Personally….I think the NHS should be franchised out….with communities having their own local hospitals etc. And then maybe we can have Catholic hospitals back again. Tending to the sick is in the DNA of true Catholic communities. I don’t know why we ever gave it up. Then again I think we just fell for the secular ‘We know best’ hype.

    • John Dare

      Are there no catholic hospitals in the Uk now?

      • ms catholic state

        I think there is just one in the entire country in London….and that one wasn’t even a proper Catholic hospital in that there were many non-Catholic practices. I don’t even know if it is still operating as a Catholic hospital. What a lost opportunity.

        • John Dare

          Some practical questions? If there was a network of catholic hospitals , enough for all catholics in the UK. How would they be paid for, who would staff them, who would be alowed as patients.

          And how on earth would the rest of us manage?

          • ms catholic state

            I think a network of Catholic hospitals that served all….Catholics and non-Catholics would be the way to go. For funding….we really need to get our taxes slashed ie get our own money back from governments who only use it to fund for their own agendas anyhow.

            As for staffing….Catholics religious and lay….and non-Catholics who were prepared to act in accordance with the Catholic rules and procedures would be fine. Of course the best option would be Catholic sisters….but they are few and far between at the moment(though they are growing).

        • Nicolas Bellord

          The Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth is a Catholic hospital in London. Legally it is obliged to follow the ethics of the Roman Catholic Church. Whether it does or not has been the subject of debate over the last two decades. Attempts have been made to secularise it but there are legal restraints preventing this happening. Unfortunately an NHS practice was allowed to enter the Hospital who will be under contract with the NHS to provide the full range of family planning and make referrals for abortion. This could have been prevented by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor but he failed to take any effective action. It requires our prayers and the continuance of the presence of the Order of Malta in their Church on the site to protect it as requested by Cardinals Wiseman and Manning. At present the Hospital, aided and abetted by the Archdiocese, have succeeded in preventing the Order of Malta from using their Chapel on the spurious ground that they made a minor error in following child protection procedures. Prayers are needed.

  • Robin Leslie

    We need to conserve Cottage hospitals and build more of them. Recovery times for patients were far more rapid than those in huge cavernous hospitals and staff more caring. Admittedly they didn’t have much of the machinery and technology of current day mega-hospitals but they reduced the fear of illness and treatment that subsequent larger hospitals only increased with the depersonalization and commodification that happens with larger numbers.
    Small is indeed beautiful and so are roots in a locality. People today know they are denied these health-giving proportions of scale and they rightly resent the trend to the large and to
    mechanization and technology in every aspect of their lives, a trend that is regressive (not progressive) and is doing immense and lasting damage to human communities and habitat serving as it does to separate people from others and from their natural habitat.

  • Robin Leslie

    Of course it’s not just some nurses that need to practice compassionate care, the first group
    of people that desparately need to acquaint themselves with the realities of cruelty and the
    essential demands of compassion are the political and business elites who set up the apparatus for the normalisation of generalised cruelty, neglect and indifference to the suffering they cause in the first place. The entire British nation needs to take a long and persistent look at its shady self and start the metanoia without delay!!

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