Hundreds die in hospitals from hunger and thirst each year

Published On: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 1:20 AM
By: Debbie Gross
Old woman in a hospital
Hunger and thirst have been wholly or partly to blame for more than three deaths a week in hospitals in Victoria.
That adds up to at least 722 deaths in the last four years.

Last year, 83 patients died directly of dehydration and 48 of malnutrition, thirst and hunger contributed to another 27 deaths, Freedom of Information figures show.

The figures do not include patients who were dehydrated or malnourished, but died of other causes.
The Health Commissioner Beth Wilson has called for further investigation, saying the death toll seemed "very high".

"There is no evidence that these figures show any negligence," she said.
"It could well be young doctors who sign death certificates they are putting down dehydration or malnutrition when there is no evidence, for example, of renal failure".
"There are lots of questions about nutrition and the people who are very sick, especially the elderly," she said.

"What we have to do as a society is to ensure that they are well kept and certainly this issue deserves further investigation."

Ms. Wilson said many of the patients have been in a situation of end of life in those not eating and
drinking properly, while others have entered the hospital in a state of dehydration or malnutrition.

"Further analysis of the data will give us better answers to the questions of why people die in that state," she said.
"The numbers were obtained with the freedom of information act, which is fine but there is very little analysis.
"It has the potential to alarm a lot of people who have relatives in a hospital."
Health Minister David Davis last night promised an investigation.