Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

126.Memorandum from Mrs Josie Goble (MIB 1025)

  A caring society rightly seeks to minimise suffering and do its best for all citizens. There are however often many snags in the best of endeavours and it is well that a Bill such as the one above is treated with extreme caution.

  As far as I know this Bill has been compiled by people who have not had strokes,been in PVS or yet suffered with dementia. The thought of these misfortunes brings shudders of horror and all too often the feeling that death would be preferable. Accordingly there is the thought that Advance Directives should be encouraged and so-called mercy killing legalised. I believe these ideas are wrong—that we cannot tell how we would feel in a particular situation until we are actually there.

  I worked for 15 years in an Old People's Home where I met and served a great variety of clients including many stroke and dementia victims. The whole ethos of the establishment was to bring to its occupants the best standard of living that we could and encourage them over and around their difficulties.

  I enclose my submission regarding this Bill in the form of a chart which I hope will be useful.


1.  Advance Directives.(a)
    That we know how we would feel in a given situation.

That we cannot possibly know how we would feel in a situation not yet experienced.

    That our AD would be easily available and useful as required.

We might die painfully whilst the AD was being located and read, ie no resuscitation or other first aid attempted for fear the AD contained wishes to the contrary.

    That there would be no new forms of treatment available.

New forms of treatment may be available.

    That ADs would only be signed by people of sound strong mind.

Vulnerable people will be persuaded to make statements they might otherwise not have made, by relatives set to gain by that person's death. This already happens with ordinary wills.

2.  Lasting Power of Attorney.(a)
    That the LPA would be trustworthy and act in the best interests of the patient.

There would be many who were not trustworthy and who would act in their own interest rather than the patient's (see (d) above).

    That, where the Attorney is also the carer, they will have everlasting powers of endurance.

The best people in the world are subject to growing tired, disillusioned and tempted.

3.  Tube feeding.

    That because a person is unconscious or can be given a flannel to suck, they will feel no pain.

Starvation and dehydration are extremely painful.

    That because nourishment is given by means of tubes it becomes medical treatment.

Only if the tubes carry medicine are they medical treatment in the same way as a piece of lint cannot be termed a "dressing" until it is impregnated with some form of medication.

4.  Ending suffering.

    A person in a bad mental/physical state is better off dead.

Conditions change—even when conditions have worsened, the adaptability factor quite often improves. Also, there have been many cases of coma victims recovering.

    That suffering automatically stops at death.

No-one knows for sure that this is the case. There are many theories that life continues.

    Suffering is so severe it cannot be eased.

Paliative care is now highly efficient.

    We put animals out of their misery, therefore we should do likewise to humans.

See above (4c), but—more importantly—there is a vital difference between mankind and animals.

August 2003

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