Tag Archives: right to die

Confused Tories don’t understand what the term ‘health service’ means

Bad for your health: If you don't have time to read the full article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Bad for your health: If you don’t have time to read the whole article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt.

“What day ever is?” I hear you cry. Good point, well made.

Yesterday was worse than usual. Not only did the High Court tell him thathis plan to penalise Lewisham Hospital for the failings of a neighbouring health trust was illegal, but the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that right-to-die campaigners did not have the right to ask doctors to end patients’ lives.

Mr Misprint was found to have been acting outside his powers as Secretary of State for Health, and in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced his plan to close or substantially downgrade casualty and maternity services at Lewisham.

Mr Justice Silber said that the decision of the Trust Special Administrator – which was the first made under new, Conservative, health service guidance – was also unlawful.

And he referred to yet another spectacular Parliamentary lie by David Cameron. He’s really racking those up, now, isn’t he? In this one, he told Dame Joan Ruddock, “What the Government and I specifically promised was that there should be no closures or reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners, unless there was proper public and patient engagement and unless there was an evidence base. Let me be absolutely clear: unlike under the last Government when these closures and changes were imposed in a top-down way, if they do not meet those criteria, they will not happen.”

Unfortunately for his reputation, it took a High Court judge to make sure that this guarantee was carried out. Liar Cameron would have pushed the unlawful measure through, even though none of the conditions he described had been met.

Of course the consequence would have been a reduced, substandard hospital service for people living in or near Lewisham – not because the hospital itself was poorly run (it wasn’t) but because the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust has been haemorrhaging more than £1 million every week. The decision was made with an eye on costs, and with no regard for the effect on people’s health or lives.

Meanwhile, over in the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, upheld a ruling that the late Tony Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life, and neither did fellow right-to-die campaigner Paul Lamb.

The perverse aspect of this is the possibility that they would have got what they wanted – if they had only kept their mouths shut.

Readers may think what follows is in bad taste, or out-of-turn, but it seems that every family in the country has a story in which they suspect doctors of “switching off” a loved one.

From my own family, I can think of two occasions without even trying: One was an uncle with a long-term illness. His wife (my aunt) cared for him but, being a senior citizen herself, she reached a point where she needed to take a break, and booked him into a respite care home. He didn’t survive the experience.

The other was another uncle with a terminal illness who was on painkillers which could kill him if a wrong dosage was applied. We don’t know that this is what led to his death – just as we don’t know what happened in the respite home. But on the face of it, the circumstances are questionable.

All of the above leads us to conclude that yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt. You can be sure he was unhappy about it, too.

Picture the scene if you can: The Cabinet room, during a tea break. Various Tories are lounging around, sucking down on some of the plasma they privatised the other week, while Mr Hunt declares: “It isn’t fair! Iain’s policies get to kill hundreds of people every we- sorry, dozens. dozens of people every week – and I can’t even top one or two who want it? What’s the world coming to?”

What indeed. Perhaps Mr Hunt should remember he’s the Secretary of State for Health. It’s in his job title that he should be preserving health, not destroying it.

And money – filthy lucre – should be his last concern!

Old wounds re-opened over ‘right to die’

A newly-promoted health minister has claimed that terminally ill people, who seek help to die, should be allowed to get that help in the UK.

Tory Anna Soubry said UK citizens should not have to go abroad if they really want to end their lives.

The Departments of Health and Justice were quick to pronounce the new minister’s opinions as her own, not indicative of government thinking, and to state that the government has no plans to change the law.

This is a valid issue for discussion; I certainly don’t think it’s right that health professionals should work to keep a person alive when their own body would have given up if left on its own, and they actually want to be released. To my way of thinking, that’s a little too close to torture. I’m sure some readers of this blog will be aware of other circumstances that could justify switching off healthcare.

But I have a doubt about this. Maybe my thoughts would be different if I did not know that, between January and August last year, there were 5,300 deaths in the support group of ESA claimants. This is the group that receives full support for as long as necessary – the rest of members’ natural lives.

Terminal conditions are common in this group, so I have to ask: Is this just another grubby bid to save more benefit money by killing off the claimants a little earlier than they would normally have died?