Fox News host Greg Gutfeld hyped a Daily Mail article that smears end-of-life care in Britain as “euthanasia,” repeating the article's false claim that “130,000 elderly patients are euthanized prematurely” because of the health care system there. In fact, the kind of care that these patients receive is offered only after their doctors “agree that all reversible causes for their condition have been considered.”
Gutfeld made his claim while the show he co-hosts, The Five, was hosting Fox News contributor Sarah Palin to discuss the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. Palin again peddled the long-debunked claim that the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board is a “death panel” that “will tell you ... whether your level of productivity in society is worthy of receiving the rationed care that will be the result of Obamacare.”
Gutfeld agreed with Palin and responded: “To your point, the Daily Mail in the U.K. reported that 130,000 elderly patients are euthanized prematurely because they don't have enough room for beds. Which goes to your point -- inevitably, this is what happens.”
The Daily Mail article in question cites one British professor who claims that doctors in the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) “are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients” under the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), “a method of looking after terminally ill patients.”
But that Daily Mail article has already been discredited by a medical group with a membership of 4,000 U.K. doctors. The head of public policy at the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), Dr. Peter Saunders, noted in a blog post that while it “is certainly true that 130,000 British patients per year are dying whilst on the LCP,” it “does not therefore follow from this that the LCP is the cause of their deaths.” As Saunders explains, only patients who are “imminently dying” can be placed on the pathway in the first place:
The Liverpool Care Pathway for the dying patient (LCP) is a treatment pathway used in the final days and hours of life which aims to help doctors and nurses provide effective end of life care.
It was initially developed between the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the City's Marie Curie Hospice in the later 1990s and recommended to hospitals by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in 2004.
Before a patient can be placed on the pathway the multi professional team caring for them have to agree that all reversible causes for their condition have been considered and that they are in fact imminently dying.
It is certainly true that 130,000 British patients per year are dying whilst on the LCP. But it does not therefore follow from this that the LCP is the cause of their deaths.
Saunders acknowledges that there may be people “who are being placed on the LCP inappropriately,” but writes that the “overwhelming majority” of patients are receiving “much better care at the end of life than they would have had if [the LCP] had not been used.” He also cites a 2009 audit of 155 hospitals that showed “where the LCP is used people are receiving high quality clinical care for the last hours and days of life.”
Gutfeld's prediction about euthanasia “inevitably” coming to the U.S. doesn't make much sense -- under reform, the U.S. health care system will be nothing like Britain's. Great Britain has a "truly socialized" health care system in which care is delivered by government hospitals and doctors. The health care reform law doesn't abolish private insurers or even create a competing public option -- as PolitiFact has noted, the law “relies largely on the free market.”