Monday, 24 June 2013

Dementia sufferers option to die marks another step on slippery slope

The news that an 83-year old is set to become the first dementia sufferer to make the journey to die at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland is a cause for real concern.

The individual is reported to be at the early stages of dementia, with a psychiatrist report asserting that he or she is mentally competent to kill themselves.

Reading the story reminded me of my own experiences over those last few years of my Dad’s life with dementia. I remember trudging up to the nursing home week in week out. As the time went by he seemed to become ever more remote. Sometimes, on the way home I would question how much value the visit had for Dad and how much it was to satisfy my own sense of “doing the right thing.”

On other occasions, he would recognise me and we’d have a good chat, until the shutters came down once again. Dementia sufferers go in and out of a sort of consciousness.

The big question was always, what was his real state of mind? If he was conscious of the situation, then it could be a real torment caught up in the home, frustrated at not being able to do and say what he wanted.

On the other hand, was he off in a totally different mental world, relatively content with life and unaware of what was going on around him. At present there is so little known about the conscious state of dementia sufferers that it is impossible to make a judgement.

The real danger of the dementia sufferer going to Dignitas is the sort of precedent it could create in relation to euthanasia. There has been much publicity surrounding the case of author Terry Pratchett, who is in the early stages of dementia.

Mr Pratchett wants to be allowed to die at a time of his own choosing in this country. He is also does not anyone who might help him prosecuted after he has departed.

Mr Pratchett has made a number of programmes on the subject, accompanying individuals on their path to Dignitas and death.

The Pratchett case though underlines the big danger of loosening the rules on assisted dying and euthanasia. Mr Pratchett is a millionaire author. He has the resources and support networks to make his now very public decision to die. Many would argue he and others should have that right. However, Mr Pratchett’s case is very different from that of the elderly person in a hospital bed with no friends or relatives to fight their corner. It is also very different from the person with a serious illness who has a family keen to get their hands on his or her financial assets.

Having witnessed at first hand my Dad’s suffering with dementia and now my Mum’s equally horrific struggle against physical incapacity I would not be as insensitive as to rule out anybody’s right to die.

However, what is of real concern is when the economics of a cash strapped NHS are brought into this equation.

There is already an unofficial policy of rationing resources for treatment of the elderly in hospitals. When factors like the high number of NHS beds being occupied by dementia sufferers is added to a need to make cuts one wonders if rules on assisted dying were relaxed then would an unofficial euthanasia policy not quickly develop.

It is this overidding danger of financial constraint that fills me with fear whenever news comes of making assisted dying or euthanasia that much easier.

We live in a society where sanctity of life seems to be devalued with each passing week. The value of life is seen increasingly in terms of what an individual has to contribute. Those who have retired, despite contributing in many different ways whether as carers or tax payers, are increasingly being perceived as a burden. If this low value on life continues into the area of medical care then it will not be long before this society starts down the road that leads to Nazi style eugenics. It is for these reasons that I would be concerned over any lowering of the barriers as they now stand to assisted dying or euthanasia.

23/6/2013 - Universe

Friday, 21 June 2013

Nothing has changed with GM crops Mr Patterson, they remain an attempt by a few companies to monopolise the food chain

So environment minister Owen Patterson believes that GM crops are safer than conventional ones because they use “more precise technology and {come under] greater regulatory scrutiny.” He is leading a campaign to convert the public to GM.

Nothing has changed relating to GM crops over recent years beyond the companies that produce them upping the lobbying pressure on gullible politicians.

The spurious line that GM are needed to feed the world has been proved to be palpably not so, there is more than enough food to feed the world if it were distributed equitably and less was thrown away.

The interests of the GM companies remain the same as they have always been, namely to get control of the food chain. Once they have done this and got a complete monopoly on what we eat then they can dictate price and control availability of seeds to people across the world. The idea that GM represents the greatest good for the greatest number is spurious nonsense. The present manoeuvres to convert Europe to GM are but another example of the few attempting to make a profit at the cost of the many.

22/6/2013 Independent - letters
24/6/2013 Times - letters

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Afghanistan conflict amounts to an exercise in futility

So talks have now begun between the Americans and the Taleban, with the security handover to Afghan forces underway. How long before the Taleban resume total control of the country?

Come that eventuality, it will be time for much reflection by those who took this country into the Afghanistan conflict. £37 billion, 444 plus British service personnel and tens of thousands of Afghanis dead – a price worth paying – for what?

Good news for arms companies, who will even now be salivating at the prospect of new sales to Syria. And so the war games go on – death, destruction and more profits for the merchants of death. The Afghanistan conflict has proved only to be another tragic exercise in futility

Friday, 14 June 2013

Care minister must learn care cannot be simply predicated on the basis of private profit

The warning of care minister Norman Lamb that the next great scandal could come in domestic care sector is well founded.

The sector is dominated by low paid and sometimes untrained staff on zero hour contracts doing a vital caring job. Regulation in the area is virtually non-existent.

What is required to improve the situation is not more ministerial hand ringing whilst handing out another shoal of care and health service contracts to the private sector.

There has to be a recognition that profit and care do not mix. Until our society recognises that not every public service can be predicated according to how much money can be made out it by the private sector then there will be little progress.

Care staff do a vital job of work, so should be rewarded accordingly. The companies should be made to put their staff on proper salaried contracts with decent pay and conditions, not zero hour contracts paying the minimum wage, whilst the company grab ever bigger profits.

At another level, there needs to be a total change of attitude to life itself, with the elderly today increasingly being seen as burdens to be either warehoused in care homes or haphazardly served at home. Maybe the children need to take a greater responsibility for their parents as they grow older.

This is the time when the child repays the debt to that parent for all that they did to bring them up in the world. Care should be a generational thing.

Society should also recognise this relationship and provide the requisite support for child and parent, not simply leave everyone floundering and dependent on a voracious private sector motivated only by profit.

15/6/2013  - Guardian letters

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Give me your liberties and I will provide security has been the cry of dictators down the ages - what is so different now?

Once again, the cries go up from the Foreign Secretary down, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Well tell that to the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Judith Ward and the legion of other miscarriages of justice victims over the years.

As I was once told by the former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall John Alderson the cry give me your liberties and I will give you security has emanated from dictators down the ages. There is no way that more liberties should be being given up in the name of preventing terror – this after all is exactly what the terrorists are seeking.

If the basic libertarian argument is not accepted, then let's move onto practical application. It has never been proven that anti-terror laws taking away liberties in anyway result in the prevention of terrorism. In fact the application of anti-terror law against the Irish community during the Troubles had the effect of making that community feel suspect and under attack. As a result it closed in on itself, with real terrorists no doubt finding shelter amid the flock. History has largely repeated itself over the past decade with the Muslims replacing the Irish as the suspect community.

Let’s stop the nonsense, there is no need for any more powers for the police or security services in this country. If anything many of the powers that exist, such as those enabling the detention of people seemingly indefinitely without trial, need to be reversed. The question should be who guards the guards, not let’s give them ever more of our liberties.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Historical novelist Paul Doherty questions how Henry VIII died

Historical novelist Dr Paul Doherty has claimed that Henry VIII may have been left to die by his own courtiers.

Launching his 100th book “The Last of Days” at Trinity Catholic High School, where he is headmaster, Dr Doherty outlined the life of “one of England’s greatest tyrants.”

The ”Last of Days” focuses on the final three months of Henry VIII’s reign as seen through the eyes of court jester Will Somers . The jester chronicles the battles between power hungry councillors as to who will come out on top come the inevitable death of Henry.

Dr Doherty told of some of the characters around Henry in his dying days. The Howard family played a big role, being in conflict with Henry VIII for much of his reign. John Howard had died alongside Richard III at Bosworth fighting against Henry VII. His grandson Thomas was subsequently sent to the Tower but later released, whereupon he distinguished himself fighting against the Scots.

There was conflict though not least via the Howard women, Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard who were both found to be traitors by Henry. Thomas Howard also plotted against the King’s advisors like Thomas Cromwell. “Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk orchestrated the fall of Cromwell. Henry Howard, his son, was a brilliant soldier but arrogant,” said Dr Doherty, who also told of the court roles of Edward and Thomas Seymour, who owed their position in the court to sister Jane who had provided Henry’s only male heir.

Dr Doherty believes that in his last days there was probably a final move planned against his courtiers and his last wife Katharine Parr. It was at this time that Henry may have been helped on his way to death.

Dr Doherty’s evidence for Henry VIII’s unfortunate end was that the body was supposed to have been disembowelled and embalmed, then put into a lead casket and Elmwood coffin. He died on 28 January 1547 and was buried on 13 February. “The body exploded whilst in waiting, with dogs eating some of the remnants over night,” said Dr Doherty, who explained how since the death Henry’s coffin has been disinterred and found to have ruptured.

None of this should have happened if the body had been embalmed and treated properly. Dr Doherty suggested Henry may have suffocated or just been left to die and then stuffed into the casket and coffin.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Target war makers and tax evaders not the pensioner's winter fuel allowance

The Labour Party maybe right that wealthier pensioners do not need the winter fuel allowance but such moves amount usually to trojan horses being driven in with a long term view to ending the universal benefit altogether regardless of means.

The background to this move is the squalid little discussion among the main parties over skivers and strivers, the deserving and undeserving poor. What this is really about is an overall attempt to return to the Victorian days of the worthy and unworthy poor. In those days need was dealt with on the basis of the charitable discretion of the wealthy. The less charitable option being the workhouse. There was no right to support as under the welfare state. Living in one of the wealthies countries in the world there is no logical reason to be going back to such days.

If we really want to look for savings in the budget I'd suggest starting with the redundant Trident nuclear weapons system, costing billions and on the point of renewal. The crazy intervention in Afghanistan that we are told has cost £37 billion so far, a cost of £2000 to every tax paying household in Britain. The tax evading companies that take billions from UK customers each year but pay virtually no tax here. The list goes on, underlining that there are far better places that the Labour Party could go looking for revenue before it starts picking on the elderly via the likes of their winter fuel allowance.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

St Paul triumphs at Sandford St Martin awards

The bigger winner at the Sandford St Martin awards this year was David Suchet’s In the footsteps of St Paul.

The documentary, fronted by the man who is known for playing Agatha Christie’s Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, also took the Radio Times Listeners Award, receiving a majority of the 6,000 votes cast by readers.

The documentary screened on BBC1 drew on St Pauls letters, tracking the journey of the saint and his influence on the early spread of Christianity.

Presenting the Premier Television Award, chair of the judges, art critic Brian Sewell argued that the medium of television might help Christians understand better other faiths, while other faiths need to know more of Christianity. “Religion still effects the future of humanity worldwide, it is too important to be ignored by broadcasters,” said Mr Sewell.

The winner of the Premier Radio Award was Hearing Ragas (made for Radio 4), which told violinist Professor Paul Robertson’s story of the effect of hearing Indian ragas while in a coma and then the healing effect of Sir John Tavener’s music had on him while in recovery.

The Sandford St Martin trustees presented a special award to the organising team for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

Denise, the wife of writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, collected the award on behalf of the organisers. In the acceptance speech, Mr Cottrell Boyce expressed his pleasure that the trustees had found religion in the ceremony. He spoke of the Christian witness of so many taking part. “What you saw was a more just and caring society, it was only for a few weeks but exist it did,” said Mr Cottrell Boyce. “If the opening ceremony helped us remember who we are it did its job.”