It was originally developed by Marie Curie hospice in Liverpool, to ease the pain of patients dying from cancer.
I have immense respect for Marie Curie nurses, from my personal experience - but that does not mean that they necessarily get everything right, and still less that an approach they piloted is not open to abuse.
According to Professor Patrick Pullocino, the LCP is frequently used to dehydrate and starve to death people who are not already imminently about to die.
He told a Medical Ethics Alliance conference in London: “If we accept the LCP we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths.”
He also revealed that he had taken a patient off the LCP (which had been implemented by a stand-in doctor on a weekend shift), and the patient then lived on for more than a year. Given that LCP is meant to be for the last hours of life, that is deeply disturbing.
Disturbing, too, is the official line, given by A Spokesman for the Department of Health: ' A patient’s condition is monitored at least ever four hours and if a patient improves, they are taken off the Liverpool Care Pathway and given whatever treatment best suits their new needs.' If you are sedated, starved and de-hydrated, improvement in your condition is a remote contingency: but that doesn't mean that you would otherwise have died...
I do not know Professor Pullocino, who is the latest in a number of concerned medical professionals to raise questions about the way in which the LCP is used (or abused). But I do know Dr Philip Howard, both by reputation, and as a friend of friends - and I have heard him speaking on pro-life issues. So when he speaks, I take it very seriously.
He says: “It (the LCP) is a decision with an end in view. The patient is dying. Why? Because we say they are dying. Why? Because we have decided.”
He scarcely needed to add: “That’s a worry when you have the problem of getting it wrong.”
Before I get the outraged response of all those who have seen their dying relations' last minutes eased by the LCP, I would simply point this out: I am not saying that the LCP cannot be used ethically; merely that it can (and apparently is) also being used unethically - and that should concern us all.