For information, this is the answer provided by ‘Dignity in Dying’ when I enquired about the difference between shortening someone’s life by putting them on the LCP and actively assisting them to die:
‘Under an assisted dying law, a patient could only have an assisted death if they had made several requests for assisted dying and met all the safeguards. The patient would self-administer the life ending medication. A terminally ill person could start the process of requesting an assisted death when they had a prognosis of 12 months or less to live
This is very different to the Liverpool Care Pathway, which is about managing symptoms when a person is dying – a day or two from death at most. The principle behind the LCP is that treatment, including artificial hydration and nutrition, may be withdrawn to make the process of dying better in the last hours of life. Even though it sounds alarming, dying people may not be able to take in nutrition and fluids and in many cases it would be harmful and result in very distressing symptoms to continue with such treatment. Your email reflects the media coverage that families have not been told about the use of the LCP in some cases. Whilst research shows that poor communication around the LCP is not the norm, the media cases are concerning.
Even if the worst claims about the LCP were true, this would be completely different to the patient-centric, choice based, safeguarded assisted dying process that we propose.
In terms of Dignity in Dying and Compassion in Dying, we are closely monitoring the research and the media reporting around the LCP.
In terms of the government, there is currently an independent review of the Liverpool Care Pathway in progress – members of the public are encouraged to email the review team about their experiences of/views on the LCP at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is more information on the review here: http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2013/02/liv-care-pathway/.’