“To me it felt like she was put on to death row and left to die in a side room” - husband’s anger at Norfolk hospital’s treatment of his wife

PUBLISHED: 10:08 16 October 2012

Roy Cooper is unhappy that his wife Mary was put on the Liverpool Care Pathway at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and 'left to die'. Here Mr Cooper is pictured with his daughter Maxine Richardson. Picture: Ian Burt

Roy Cooper is unhappy that his wife Mary was put on the Liverpool Care Pathway at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and 'left to die'. Here Mr Cooper is pictured with his daughter Maxine Richardson. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

A widower last night hit out after claiming his dying wife was put on a care plan for the terminally-ill without his family’s agreement.

What is the Liverpool Care Pathway?

The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) was first developed at a hospice in the Merseyside city and since the late 1990s, it has been helping to spread elements of the hospice model of care into other healthcare settings, such as hospitals, care homes and people’s own homes.

It is widely used in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, both in hospitals and in the community.

However, concerns have been aired that the pathway is being used inappropriately and is leading to what some people believe is large-scale euthanasia by stealth.

In June, Professor Patrick Pullicino, a senior consultant at East Kent Hospitals, told the Royal Society of Medicine the LCP was being used as an “assisted death pathway” with patients placed on the LCP without clear evidence.

Mary Cooper, 79, from Clenchwarton, died on August 13 after spending eight weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in nearby King’s Lynn.

It came as MPs, including Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham, called for an urgent review into the way the plan, known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, operates.

Her husband Roy Cooper, 79, said last night: “They never told me about the plan and no-one explained it to me. To me it felt like she was put on to death row and left to die in a side room.

“I would never have let her go to hospital if I knew what I do now.

“After finding out she was on the pathway, we offered to take her home to die but was told we couldn’t.”

A letter responding to the complaint was sent by the hospital to the family last month and a Queen Elizabeth Hospital said they intended to make further contact to discuss the matter further.

Tens of thousands of people are placed every year on the pathway, which aims to ensure that the “right type of care is available for people in the last days or hours of life when all of the possible reversible causes for their condition have been considered”.

But retired train driver Mr Cooper continued: “I got the feeling the quicker she went the better because it would stop them looking after her for another week.

“I really don’t think it is right for doctors to play God and put people on this plan.”

Diabetic Mrs Cooper was taken to the Lynn-based hospital on June 19 after collapsing with low blood sugar levels.

The 79-year-old had been taking antibiotics for a foot infection which had put her off food and led to her collapse.

She was moved into different wards around the hospital and at one stage sons Robert, Gary and daughters Glenda Woods and Maxine Richardson were told she might return home soon.

After five weeks at the hospital and with her condition deteriorating, the pathway was mentioned to Mrs Richardson by doctors as one of several options left available but the family say they were not told when she was actually placed on system.

Mrs Richardson, of Hunstanton, said: “When we were told she was on the pathway plan, they said there was nothing more they could do for her.

“They said they would make her as comfortable as possible and free from pain, but they really didn’t explain what was actually going to happen.”

Mrs Richardson stayed by her mother’s bedside for the last two weeks of her life. The cause of Mrs Cooper’s death was put down as a heart attack, pulmonary oedema, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease.

The family later complained to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and received a letter from the hospital trust’s chief executive Patricia Wright last month responding to their complaint. The family are now considering their next option.

A spokesman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: “We are deeply sorry for the family’s loss. We have responded to them and answered the points they have made.

“We will make every effort to contact the family to talk things through with them in more detail.”

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Mr Burnham said: “I have looked carefully at the Liverpool Care Pathway and I support it.

“It is absolutely essential that it is properly communicated and understood by the family, and done in complete partnership with them. I would call for a review to ensure that that happens in every instance.”


  • Grief over a loved ones death should be respected and not debated over by those who know nothing about it. The EDP is really scraping the barrel again. If its trying to reinvent itself as a crusading paper its wasting its time.

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    kevin bacon

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • Samphirelover - it is not euthanasia in the slightest, have you seen an LCP document (drawn up in association with palliative care teams)? Patients placed on the LCP need to meet a criteria to begin with - its not a case of picking & choosing. Secondly, what it does is give clear nursing goals which are checked at least 4 hourly and give algorithms on what drugs will best relieve their symptoms. And if people are still awake enough (which is rare for patients so unwell they are deemed suitable LCP candidates) they are able to eat. And i do have a relative dying as we speak. He is at home refusing to eat drink or take his tablets, has refused to go to hospital or respite and has even refused a hospital bed in his lounge so don't even go there my sweet. I (as i suspect LARSON) am very knowledgable about this subject & the term euthanisia regarding it is completely irrelevant. To put it bluntly it makes sure people who are dying (a natural body process) are kept as symptom free as possible & families are aware they are dying. It may be in this case that the doctors didn't make it quite clear why treatment was being stopped which is unfortunate & if so i'm sure this ward will learn lessons from it. But before the LCP dying people were still known to be dying it just stops the hmmm's & arrr's on which drugs doses would best suit the patients symptoms - euthanisia does not even come in to fact there is a limit on morphine doses so as not to accelerate the dying process. And breath!

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • I wish the LCP was available when my 85 year old mother was taken from her care home to hospital..dieing. She was 'revived' by the doctors and lived for another 6 years..unable to speak..not knowing who she was, where she was, unable to feed herself, and doubly incontinent. The look on her face I will never forget. A dignified end was not given to her. Our family had a time of hell on visits, seeing a woman who was loved just waste away over the years. I belive God called her, she should have been allowed to go. My sincerest condolences to the family consurned.

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    Friday, October 19, 2012

  • ****To me it felt like she was put on to death row and left to die in a side room...****. The man's wife has died and he is upset and like some people in these circumstances he is looking for someone to blame. But his death row comment is emotional rubbish and insulting to the staff. They admit they were told about the LCP earlier and raised no objection then it appears. By wanting to artificially to keep his wife alive to the last possible moment there is only one person " playing god ".....himself.

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • My mum was in exactly the same situation. She was on the Liverpool Pathway. She was in a side room, pain free and died peacefully.The hospital staff explained everything to us. I can't belive this was not exlpained to Mr Cooper and his family. I am very sorry for their loss.

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • I feel sorry for this family that they failed to grasp what health care staff would have told them about her care.At least she had a peaceful and supported end Strange how we don't want doctors to act like gods but by resuscitating the elderly or treating life threatening conditions that is exactly what they are expected to do!

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    Peter Backman

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • Completely Larson - a typical case of grieving related blame. But some people unfortunately lack common sense. It was mentioned?? Therefore the family would be aware she was NOT recovering? And where exactly would they expect her to be other than a private, peaceful sideroom? The corridor?? She was be be "kept comfortable & pain free" & they were not aware what was going on even though all fluids medicines tests had been stopped? Im very sorry that the family have lost their loved one but this ridiculous article should not have made it to press. Bad work EDP

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • samphirelover *** "It is euthanasia. I suggest you both check this out before you comment ***". No , that is nonsense. We could if we wished keep people alive in a vegetative state after their organs have failed for months....IV fluids , dialysis, blood transfusions , breathing tubes...we have the technology. Is that what you want ? LCP alows nature and inevitable death to take its course in as humane and pain free way as possible. Ever seen anyone die ? As an ex-nurse i saw hundreds of elderly people die ...there is nothing nice about , nothing dignified about it , the human body struggles on till the bitter end and its often an unpleasant , painful and ugly business. Which is why when my time comes i will make sure that the LCP box is ticked on my notes.

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  • To the first 2 posters - the problem is that they were told about the Liverpool Care Pathway but not what was involved. Sometimes people are only told the initials - no explanation, nothing and because you are in a highly distressed and emotional state you do not think to ask questions really. You just assume the hospital is doing their best for the loved one. Not that they are taken off food and fluids and die very quickly thereafter. It is euthanasia. I suggest you both check this out before you comment and certainly before you have a loved one taken seriously ill.

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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