Entry in online diary: NHS Death Row - the truth revealed

Update: 10 May 2004

After Alan was told by the NHS that he was to go back to Leicester for another opinion, I decided to write to his former consultant, Professor Sir Peter Bell (some­where along the line this chap got a knighthood), via the British Vascular Foundation. I asked him straight out why he didn’t tell Alan last year that NHS Policy and Procedure existed to refer him to someone who could do the surgery he needs – overseas if necessary.
His reply? ‘No one can put a price on someone’s life, but having surgery in the USA would be extremely expensive unless you have private medical insurance.’ In just one sentence he contradicted himself without so much as a comma or a full stop.

In other words you CAN put a price on someone’s life and Alan’s surgery was too expensive. I then asked him how he knew Alan didn’t have private medical insur­ance. No reply to that one. Professor Bell then went on to say that there were surgeons in the UK and Europe who were just as capable as those in the USA. Oh yeah? Name one. Bless his cotton pickin’ heart (you see, we’re practising our American accents), he did more than name just one … he named five! He also laid down the criteria for Alan’s surgery by saying that the surgeon chosen would need to have success of re-do operations. link

Armed with my trusty laptop I went straight onto the internet and looked up the names. The first one, in Birmingham, pub­lishes stuff in the ‘PubMed’ about ‘Voices from the Void’. The second one was some vet in Norway and his public­ations in ‘PubMed’ include things like gaseous exchanges in pigs and dogs. Oh, and he also researches body piercings and tattoos. Mustn’t forget that. Now call me old-fashioned (or maybe Professor Bell just has a wicked sense of humour), but I couldn’t find any relevance whatsoever to re-do thoraco-abdominal aneurysm operations. I gave up researching the others and went and poured myself a stiff lemonade before I lost the will to live and decided to go jump off something high.

As if that wasn’t enough, Professor Bell then went on to say that he never said that Alan’s operative risk last year was 90% failure – or 100% certainty of paralysis and renal failure if he did survive. He believed it then, and he believes it now, that he could have done the surgery with an 80% suc­cess rate. Although Professor Bell signed Alan’s
Discharge Summary, he said it was actually Professor Galinanes who made the diagnosis as he was away from the hospital at the time. Surely, as Head of Department, he wouldn’t be trying to blame someone else? Whoops! Was that the sound of kicking yourself in the butt I just heard, Sir Peter? Would you like a spade to get yourself out of the hole you’ve just dug yourself into?

Without further ado, I then wrote back and asked him these questions:

If you didn’t agree with the diagnosis why did you, as Head of Department, sign the Discharge Summary that stated Alan was inoperable and terminal?

If you thought the operative risk was only 20% why didn’t you offer Alan an operation at the time and why have you left it 14 months to tell us (bearing in mind you only gave him 1 or 2 years at best to live)?

Why did you write and tell Alan's GP that the operation he needed could not be done?

Why did you support his application for Disability Living Allowance under the Special Rules (terminal illness)?

It’s at this point that Professor Sir Peter Bell has declined to comment further. It has now become clear to us that Professor Bell decided Alan’s life wasn’t worth saving. He didn’t offer him a life-saving oper­ation, neither did he use NHS guidelines to refer him elsewhere. Our Government, seem­ingly, are on a mission to reduce wait­ing lists and cut spending and what better way to achieve it than to send people home to die? That knowledge is far worse to accept than the original diagnosis because every­one has to die – but to know that someone is playing God and deciding when their time is up is beyond belief. As I pointed out to Professor Bell, Dr Harold Shipman was jailed for causing unneces­sary loss of life. Fact. Other than the method, what’s the difference? Unless someone can con­vince me otherwise then that is my opinion.

We have made a formal complaint to the hospital and are now pursuing clinical negligence through our solicitor. I’m sure Alan isn’t the only person in this country who is on the NHS ‘Death Row’ so why shouldn’t everyone know? How many people in this country have been told they are inoperable/terminal and they have accep­ted it, as Alan did? How many people have already died because their consultants either misdiagnosed or failed to refer them to someone with more expertise and only 14 months later care to tell them about it?

How can all this be right? The simple answer is: IT’S NOT.

This, of course, is not getting Alan any closer to having his life-saving operation … we continue to wait. His wait is now prolonged because the consultant in Lei­cester sent us an email today to say he’s cancelling Alan’s appointment next week and that the NHS must now refer him to someone else in this country because he also doesn’t have the necessary expertise. He is recommending to the NHS that Alan be referred to – yep, you’ve guessed it – the chap in Birmingham who writes of ‘Voices in the Void’.

God help us.