When is starving someone to death ever acceptable?

These tragic cases hit the headlines every few years. A loving family applies to the courts for permission to stop “life sustaining treatment” to allow a loved-one in a persistent vegetative state to “die with dignity”. The “life sustaining treatment” bit is just some weasel words that mean removing their feeding tubes and letting them starve to death. Now I don’t question the love that the family has, or the agony and torment they’re going through, or their desire to do whatever is best for their loved one, but I do have two serious concerns.

My first concern is the method. I really do mean that weasel words are used to conceal the real horror of what’s being done. If the patient has a heart attack and the medics do not resuscitate, that’s fine with me, but that’s not what this is all about. This is about actively bringing about their death. It’s about removing their oxygen supply if they have one, and removing their feeding tubes. If they’re not able to breathe without assistance, they will suffocate. If they are able to breathe, they will stay alive until they have starved or dehydrated.

I’m not happy about that.

If all the expert medical opinion is agreed, and all the tests are conclusive, and no mistakes have been made, and the patient can be considered medically and legally dead, then I can understand the desire to bring a peaceful end to a tragic situation. But still. By starvation? Would we treat a dog like that? If we judged that a much-loved pet had to be “put to sleep” – more weasel words – would we be happy if the vet put the pet into a cage and left it there until it had starved to death? Then why would we treat a human being like that?

My second concern is alluded to above. What if they’re wrong? Mistakes are made and misdiagnoses do occur. Medical malpractice lawyers in America make a very lucrative living from such cases and while the culture of litigation here in the UK is different, I’m sure we make just as many mistakes. They will be very rare mistakes. But what proportion of potentially recovering patients to patients with no prospects of recovery would we be happy with? How many living people must we kill before we become uncomfortable with this whole process?

We can combine my two concerns into one hypothetical. Let’s say that the patient really is just a breathing cadaver. Why shouldn’t we let surgeons harvest the organs while they’re still fresh? If we are so convinced the patient can feel no pain, where’s the harm? But if we are still a bit squeamish about it, if we don’t like the way the body twitches when the surgeon cuts the heart out, then why don’t we just put a bullet through the brain? Far better than damaging useful transplant organs by using poisonous gasses or chemicals to terminate life.

Whatever we do, it has to be quick and humane. Starving to death is neither and we are just dancing around the issue. Should a court find that circumstances are such as to warrant life support being withdrawn, it should also rule that measures can be taken to actively end the life. It cannot be right that a court can sanction a barbarous act and encourage the suffering which will be the likely result. If everyone is so convinced there would be no suffering if life support is withdrawn, then do the job properly and bring peace to all involved.

Finally, I would not have been prompted to write this piece were it not for an article in the Telegraph today reporting that a mother is applying for just such a court order concerning her daughter.  She has been in a “minimally conscious state” since February 2003, a truly tragic situation.  But what was the bigger aspect of the story that piqued the Telegraph’s interest? It was that the mother has also obtained an injunction to protect her family’s privacy and this was the first to explicitly cover social media, citing Facebook and Twitter by name.

First injunction specifically bans Facebook and Twitter

So an upcoming death by legally sanctioned starvation is not as big a story as anything about Twitter is.  Such is modern reporting.

Dealing with Air Rage

“Drunken passengers who take advantage of cheap duty-free alcohol while waiting for delayed flights have caused a dramatic rise in ‘air rage’ incidents, it emerged last night.”
“Pilots called on the courts to take stronger action against those putting passengers’ lives at risk.”
Daily Telegraph report on increase in ‘air rage’ incidents.

Reading the above makes me very sad. I suspect the pilots mean us, the travelling public, I suspect they don’t mean the air travel industry that creates the problem in the first place. Those who run the airports and the airlines are breathtakingly indifferent to the plight of those they laughingly refer to as “self-loading cargo.” If they were forced to stand for hours passing through endless frustrating and demeaning queues and checks only to be finally herded onto planes with cramped and uncomfortable seating to spend further hours breathing stale air, I can promise you, they would all suffer from air rage too. Alcohol, cheap or otherwise, is just the match to a mountain of inflammable tinder.

By the time you’ve arrived at the airport, already stressed-out from the journey, and you’ve stood in a painfully slow-moving queue to reach the check-in desk, haggled over the inadequate baggage allowance, put liquids into transparent plastic bags, made your way to the security-check queue, had the indignity of stripping almost to your underclothes, putting your mobile phone, credit cards and small change into a tray, being summoned to walk slowly through the metal detector before being body-searched, and taking your shoes off to put through the radar, you have already spent a significant part of your life being ritually and publicly humiliated. Somewhere in amongst all that you will have had your ticket and your passport checked, after queuing separately on each occasion of course. Then you find yourself in limbo-land, a shoppers’ paradise except that the goods on sale are only fractionally less than high street prices. Apart from the booze, that is.

Finally you are summoned to board your flight. Well, what do you know, there’s a queue to have your ticket checked before you can get into the waiting area where you have to sit and wait yet again, and when boarding does start, there’s a mad scramble to form another queue to have your ticket and passport inspected one more time. And after what seems like a lifetime, you find yourself on the plane at long last. Now you have to find somewhere to stow what little hand baggage you’ve been allowed because there never seems to be enough room in the overhead compartments. That’s why those in the know were so anxious to board first. But anyway, you’ve done it, after all your trials and tribulations you’re on board and you’ve stowed your things. Now you can sit back and relax in your comfortable seat. Not a bit of it.

In order to deter all but the most determined and hardy travellers, the airlines have deliberately made their seats as cramped and uncomfortable as they can be. Airplanes are always overcrowded, you see, and if they could get you to sit two to a seat, one on another’s lap, they would. As it is, they leave you to play elbow-boxing with the person in the seat next to you for use of the arm rest; they simply do not care for your comfort. They simply do not care for your health, either, so to save a trivial amount of money they recycle the cabin air until it is putrid and almost dangerous to breath. So there you sit, for hours on end, uncomfortable, exhausted, deeply resentful, and developing an airplane-induced headache. Is it any wonder the cabin crew find some passengers fractious? Is it really the right response for them to confront such passengers with a heavy handed approach that will only get them irate to such an extent they can then rough them up, put handcuffs on them, and have them charged with air rage? Is cheap alcohol really the problem here? I think not.

Travel in happier times. Note the cabin crew using a stick to welcome passengers to their destination

Travel in happier times. Note the cabin crew using a stick to welcome passengers to their destination

The Human Rights of a murderer

Reading about the case of Learco Chindamo who is soon to be released from prison I can quite well understand the reasons for not deporting him. He came to this country at the age of five, he was born and raised here, he does not speak Italian, he is not Italian. I am less agitated by his so-called human rights than I am by the realisation that he is what he is because of us. It wasn’t Italy that made him a murderer, it was Britain. There is nothing to be gained by sending him to Italy. It might seem the modern equivalent of transportation but in those days convicts had no prospect of ever returning from Australia. These days travel is so cheap and our borders so open that he can return perfectly easily, so what’s the point.

The part I don’t understand though, is why is he being released at all? He brutally murdered a headmaster at his school. He has served just twelve years for taking a human life. The Home Office says he is still a danger to society. This is not about why isn’t he being deported, this should be about why is he being released? Murder should demand a very lengthy term in prison, “life” should be the norm and life really should mean life. Philip Lawrence’s murder shocked the nation at the time. But in the intervening years nothing has been done about the problem of juvenile delinquency. Our streets have become the playground for knife-wielding young hoodlums who seem to think they are living out some x-box fantasy in real life. They “blow away” those who get in their way. This problem is going to get a lot worse before politicians wake up to it and do something. When they do, it is going to take a generation to undo the damage already done.

Another skirmish in the Race Relations war

I love the Sikhs. Of all the troubles we read about in today’s religion-obsessed world, none of them are caused by Sikhs. To my knowledge they stand for principles, loyalty, honour, family values and service to the community, plus whatever other qualities you can think to name. They have also served the British Crown loyally and valiantly for more than a century. You would think the Ministry of Defence would be delighted to be approached by leaders of the Sikh community with the suggestion of forming a Sikh regiment and the assurance they would have no trouble finding 700 willing volunteers. And the MoD were delighted. Delighted that is, until they spoke to the Commission for Racial Equality who vetoed the idea.

Sikh soldiers in the Indian Army

The CRE, which itself has a dreadfully racist record of employment, has a vested interest in perpetuating the race relations industry and saddling this country with insane policies. It is also highly selective in its approach. Saying “the creation of a separate regiment according to ethnicity would be segregation, which amounts to discrimination under the Race Relations Act” is to defy common sense. The British Army has for centuries formed regiments along ethnic lines, and why? Because they work. Society is entirely happy with the idea of the Irish Guards, the Scots Guards and the Welsh Guards. They take recruits on ethnic grounds from all across the UK. There is no conceivable reason why the Sikhs cannot do the same.

I hope common sense will prevail and Sikh leaders and the Ministry of Defence will decide to ignore the CRE and go ahead with this inspiring proposal.

The English Nazi movement

Those of us who remember having proper history lessons will no doubt recognise the circumstances in which the Nazi party flourished in Germany. They pandered to popular outrage over the way the Treaty of Versailles was stripping the country and they directed their ire at the Jews. They rallied in their thousands with flags flying to hear ranting and hate-mongering. They wanted racial purity and the re-establishment of what they considered traditional German values.

Sound familiar? Today, we have a large body of opinion that deeply resents the European Union and all it is doing to emaciate this country and they direct their ire at Moslems and immigrants. Well I am in the former body of opinion but emphatically not in the latter. I also resent the way they have hijacked my flag and my values and claim them to belong to true Englishmen.

These people represent the worst of what this country is becoming. Krystal Nacht is not far off.

The riddle of the silver trophies

I was in Corfu town recently, and in the park opposite Liston a company was staging a promotion for it’s wares. There was loud music, a troupe of dancing cheerleaders waving pom-poms, a giant video screen, and a collection of rigid raider speedboats. And on one of the speedboats was a row of fancy silver trophies. The public was milling around and I didn’t see any signs of security, which puzzled me a little. They would never get away with it in England, I thought, those trophies wouldn’t last five minutes before they were nicked.

Now, why is that I thought? The answer came to me quite quickly – they’re on an island, so where would the thieves dispose of their booty? A few more sips of beer and another thought came to me. The reason they wouldn’t get away with displaying valuables openly in England is that thieves have a whole support network. We have a criminal industry here. It’s probably the only growth industry we have. Stolen property is handed on from thief to fence and sold on in pubs and on eBay. What are we doing to break up that network?

There was an account of a court case a few years ago which I read with astonishment. An ‘alleged’ thief was caught red-handed with property he had stolen from a nearby house moments before. The copper saw him and nabbed him. However, the copper hadn’t actually seen the thief leaving the premises with the stolen property, so it couldn’t be proven conclusively that the thief was the culprit. He said he found it under a bush and didn’t know it was stolen property. So he got off.

Now I know about miscarriages of justice, and how many we’ve had, and how bad they have been. That’s the only reason I would never support the death penalty, which I actually agree with. I would not trust our judicial system not to make a mistake. But haven’t we gone too far the other way? Are we not setting too high a standard of proof before a conviction? Given the overcrowded prisons, that probably seems like a ridiculous question, but does anyone believe we are a law-abiding society any more? We’re losing this battle, aren’t we?

The Falklands War, the teachers’ reaction

Twenty five years after the Falkland Islands were freed from a military occupation, teachers in Scotland have voted for a ban on recruiters visiting schools to talk about careers in the army. Apparently these despicable people were handing out t-shirts and even pictures of helicopers. Okay, so I realise the teachers are probably more upset about Blair invading Iraq than anything else, but it demonstrates to me how morally enfeebled we have become because of political correctness and even class hatred. I wish we hadn’t been lied to over Iraq as well, but the response should not be to punish the armed forces over it.

Service in the military is a service to the country and is something to be proud of.

Read the BBC Scotland report here