Labour MP tells of inhumane treatment and says she fears normalisation of cruelty now rife among NHS nurses.
If a Labor MP can't get better treatment for her husband, the average Briton is completely out of luck.
Interestingly enough, this has not made any US papers that I could find.
Ann Clwyd has said her biggest regret is that she didn't "stand in the hospital corridor and scream" in protest at the "almost callous lack of care" with which nurses treated her husband as he lay dying in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
Clwyd, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley since 1984 and Tony Blair's former human rights envoy to Iraq, told the Guardian she fears a "normalisation of cruelty" is now rife among NHS nurses. She said she had chosen to speak out because this had become "commonplace".
Describing how her 6'2'' husband lay crushed "like a battery hen" against the bars of his hospital bed with an oxygen mask so small it cut into his face and pumped cold air into his infected eye, Clwyd said nurses treated the dying man with "coldness, resentment, indifference and even contempt".
Owen Roberts died on Tuesday, 23rd October from hospital-acquired pneumonia. The former television director and producer had multiple sclerosis for 30 years and had been in a wheelchair for the previous two years. He had been in the flagship hospital for ten days.
"I have had nightmares about what happened," said Clwyd, speaking to the Guardian after initially making the claims on BBC Radio 4's World at One.
Clwyd said that on the Friday before Roberts died, she asked if he could have a bigger oxygen mask. "I was just ignored," she said. "I had to put my own Lypsyl on his lips because they became so chapped …by the cold air the mask pumped out and there were no nurses around. It was us, not the nurses, who put a pillow between him and the bars of the bed because the bed was too small and he was jammed so tightly against the bars.
"It was us again who covered him with a towel because he was cold and we couldn't get more than two thin blankets to cover him with. And it was us who put socks on his feet because they hung over the end of the too-short bed .
"I can't believe anybody calling themselves a nurse could fail to give someone who is very ill that kind of attention but it was completely missing," Clwyd added. Nobody should have to die in conditions like I saw my husband die in. I have tried in the past to get Bills through parliament on the welfare of battery hens. My husband died like a battery hen."
Clwyd, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, was on the Royal Commission on the NHS and served on the Welsh hospital board. But she said that regardless of her experience and knowledge, she found it impossible to make her voice heard.
"It's uncomfortable speaking out and I don't like it but if I couldn't get anyone to listen to me, how do other people manage it?" she asked. "I want people to know that they can't leave things to the professionals in the NHS. You have to keep asking questions.
Clwyd said she "will always regret that I did not ask more questions" but that whenever she tried, she was ignored or brushed off.
"I was in on the day before he died from 2.30pm to 10.30pm, and I saw one, single ward round," she said. "When I did manage to stop a nurse in the corridor – they were usually too busy to stop – I asked why he wasn't in intensive care." She added, a nurse "told me 'there are lots of people worse than him' and walked off. A few hours later, I asked another nurse if a doctor had been to see him. She said a doctor had been – but not to see Owen because they knew what to do.
"From what I saw, that consisted of doing nothing," she added.
Clwyd described how Roberts' suffered bitterly from the cold air of a fan kept on for a patient in a neighbouring bed. His ward was full while a second ward across the hall was empty, she said, but nurses refused to move him on the day he died because, they said, the empty ward "was being kept until tomorrow".
"At eight o'clock that morning, just before he died, all the lights in the four-bed ward went on and somebody shouted 'Anybody for breakfast?'. It was obviously totally inappropriate when they knew somebody was dying in that ward," she said. "I really do feel he died of cold and he died from people who didn't care."
Clwyd said she met with a consultant two days after her husband's funeral. "We spent one and a quarter hours talking but he eventually said it was a nursing matter."
The MP is now collecting evidence from friends who visited Roberts in hospital to send to the hospital authorities, "My husband had been very courageous over the years and should have been able to die with dignity. But he wasn't," she said.
In a statement to the programme, the hospital's executive director of nursing, Ruth Walker, said they had offered to meet Ms Clwyd so that a formal investigation into what happened could be launched.
"We recognise how distressing it is when family members have cause to raise significant concerns about the quality of care their loved one received whilst also coping with bereavement. We take such matters extremely seriously," she said.
"We will not tolerate poor care which is why it is so important that each incident is fully investigated so that we can drive up standards and provide patients and their families with the quality of care they need and deserve."