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Malnutrition of elderly Scots is ‘euthanasia’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Government-run hospitals in Scotland are guilty of a “form of euthanasia” by malnutrition, a patients’ organization leader has charged.

Jean Turner, executive director of the Scotland Patients Association (SPA), said hundreds of patients, especially the elderly, are undernourished in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals because of a lack of assistance from staff members, according to The Herald of Glasgow, Scotland.

About 50,000 patients die in a state of malnutrition each year at NHS facilities, according to one recent report.

“The SPA would call this a form of euthanasia to allow dehydration and malnutrition to develop due to lack of awareness, lack of staffing or carelessness,” Turner said, according to The Herald’s July 4 story.

The patients’ organization has urged the Scottish government to urgently tackle the problem of malnutrition of the elderly in the nation’s hospitals. Turner indicated the problem stems from staff who do not help patients who cannot feed themselves.

One woman died of kidney failure, The Herald said, after 14 weeks in a hospital, and her family believes poor standards of care, particularly in nutrition, contributed to her death.

“Staff would tell me, ‘It takes an hour to feed your mother and we don’t have an hour,'” one family member told the newspaper, adding, “We believe that the care she received in that hospital is the reason she is not here today.”

Turner said the case is one of many.

“If patients do not manage to swallow food, nutritious or otherwise, and drink then they will not heal, their general health will deteriorate and death may be an outcome, sooner or later,” Turner said.

“… Whatever happened to measuring input and output and keeping charts to prevent this? We are in no doubt many wards short-staffed and staff do not have the time that they know is needed to provide the best care, but SPA would say it is down to all staff to be accountable and raise their issues of concern.”

When the hospital staff is aware that a patient has difficulty eating, the patients’ organization said it expects them to help the patient eat, The Herald reported.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and staff writer Erin Roach.

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