CARE homes have been accused of using powerful sedatives to make coronavirus victims die more quickly.
Prescriptions for the drug midazolam rocketed during the height of the pandemic, with some claiming it has “turned end-of-life care into euthanasia”.
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Official figures show 38,352 out-of-hospital prescriptions for midazolam were issued in April – more than double the February figure.
The monthly average for the past five years in England was about 15,000.
An anti-euthanasia campaigner has claimed the spike is evidence that care homes have been putting their residents on end-of-life ‘pathways’, the MailOnline reports.
Whistleblowers have also claimed to have witnessed the misuse of sedatives – with staff told to give them to dementia patients to stop them wandering the corridors.
The Sun Online has not been able to verify these claims.
Retired neurologist Professor Patrick Pullicino, who publicised the wrongful administration of powerful pain relief to patients believed to be dying under the Liverpool Care Pathway, is concerned the same has happened again.
He told the MailOnline: “Midazolam depresses respiration and it hastens death. It changes end-of-life care into euthanasia.”
He also claimed some Covid-19 patients were wrongly kept away from hospital, despite the fact admission could have saved their lives.
Prof Pullicino blames an official flow-chart designed to help health workers decide which patients should be admitted to intensive care.
“To me this flow-chart encouraged use of end-of-life sedation with midazolam – effectively resulting in euthanasia pathways,” he claimed.
Eileen Chubb, of the charity Compassion in Care, said care home workers had told her they believed sedatives had been used too freely during the pandemic.
She said some staff were under the “definite impression” that very sick care-home residents should not be sent to hospital.
The Association for Palliative Medicine hit back and said there were good reasons for the rise in prescriptions for midazolam.
Dr Amy Proffitt, of the Association for Palliative Medicine, told the MailOnline: “I absolutely do not believe that there have been cases of euthanasia in care homes related to Covid-19.”
She said the drug was an obvious choice for patients with breathing difficulties – one of the main symptoms of coronavirus.
She added: “I can understand why people are raising concerns, but when prescribed and used appropriately, midazolam will not hasten or prolong someone’s death – it will just give comfort.”
Midazolam reduces pain and anxiety and is considered one of the four essential drugs needed for dying patients.
If taken with pain killing opiates it can depress breathing, which is potentially fatal.
Healthcare professionals are advised to only co-prescribe if there is no alternative, according to NICE.
If necessary, the lowest possible doses should be given for the shortest duration.
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