Sunday, 27 July 2008

Life, and other kinds of existence

A very old woman in failing health, with nothing to look forward to, became tired of lingering. She asked her doctor, a Glasgow GP, for strong sleeping pills. He prescribed them to her. She used them to commit suicide.

The Independent of 24th July reports that the British General Medical Council suspended the GP for six months for
actions "inappropriate, irresponsible, liable to bring the profession into disrepute and not in your patient's best interest".

They found he prescribed the retired businesswoman, known as Patient A, with sodium amytal "solely for the purpose of ending her life" and practised poor clinical management after she took an overdose of a different drug.

The panel also found he prescribed sodium amytal without adequate reason and contrary to guidance, and that he failed to make adequate notes.

Dr Kerr said he gave Patient A the sleeping pills as an "insurance policy".

He told the hearing in Manchester: "She said 'Give me something that I can take if things get too bad' and I said yes."

Suzanne Goddard QC, counsel for the GMC, said what Dr Kerr did was "akin to handing her a noose with which to hang herself at a time of her choosing".

Patient A later disposed of the sleeping tablets because she did not want to get him into trouble after learning he was being investigated by health chiefs for his views on assisted suicide.

Patient A was an osteoporosis sufferer who loved playing bridge and attending family events but feared becoming a burden upon her family, the GMC heard.

Her son told the GMC she was strong-minded and had a high regard for Dr Kerr.

He said she was aghast at witnessing the deterioration and death of her sister from bone cancer.

Dr Kerr said Patient A had "firm views about how she wanted her life to end" and wanted to maintain control over what happened to her.

She made an advance statement in which she expressed her desire not to be resuscitated if she became gravely ill, the GMC heard.

Patient A killed herself in December 2005, aged 87, using a cocktail of Temazepam, antihistamines and painkillers.

The GMC heard she made a failed suicide attempt two weeks earlier using Temazepam but was not referred to hospital by Dr Kerr.

His decision to prescribe her more Temazepam three days later was branded "illogical" by John Donnelly, chairman of the GMC Fitness to Practise Panel.

The panel found Dr Kerr had not failed to take adequate measures to dissuade her from suicide.[my emphasis]

Mr Donnelly said: "Patient A was an elderly lady who made her end-of-life wishes quite clear, in that she did not want to become a burden upon her family. The panel found that she was determined to end her own life."

[Dr Kerr] told the GMC: "I think when dealing with someone holding a rational view of the circumstances in which they want to end their life, it was my duty to at least consider whether he or she had a reasonable opinion and that it was my duty to assist if I thought I agreed with that patient's assessment."

He also said his concern was for the wellbeing of his patients who had placed their trust in him.

Lives are individual. Individuals who choose not to continue a painful existence have more respect for life than those who would deny them the right to assisted suicide. As philosopher Tara Smith says in her book Viable Values:
[T]he reason that suicide can be morally allowed is that life is not intrinsically valuable. Life is not to be maintained at any cost, like it or not. A life-based code is not a sentence to live, saddling people with the obligation to endure, however painful the circumstances. Life is the standard of value and source of moral obligation if it is a person's goal but it is up to the individual whether to embrace the goal.

Who in the world has the right to tell Patient A whether to value her life or not? And, if she didn't, what was she supposed to have done instead of seeking help from someone she trusted? Leapt off the Forth Bridge? Dragged herself through another few hateful months or years of increasing dependence as her health continued to deteriorate? For whose sake should she have done it? The religious have an answer: for God's Sake. For God's sake!

Monday, 21 July 2008

South African cricketer Hashim Amla is a good player, and I congratulate him on his recent test hundreds against England. No, really. That hissing you hear is not from me. May the best man win, and all that - and Amla's technique has improved markedly over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, his appearance has not. He shaves his scalp and compensates for it with a horribly bushy beard. Every time I see him play I think he looks as if he's put his head on upside down. It seems that making yourself ugly is characteristic of the devout of all religions.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

How to do things properly

Here's how to do push-ups properly:

Really, I never knew. They're hard! I did look up how to do them in The Royal Marines circuit training book, but the text there didn't tell me everything I needed to know. The illustrations, featuring an unattractive, vest-clad man with a moustache and protuberant buttocks, weren't explicit enough either. Videos are better at explaining how to do exercises, and it helps if the presenter is cute.

VideoJug tells you how to do everything properly:

How To Eat Sushi

Oh boy. I now realise that in the past I have offended by taking way too much soy sauce and wasabi in one go, not bothering to eat the ginger at all, and nibbling sushi to bits instead of taking an entire piece with a single bite. And you're supposed to dip with the fish side down! And you're not allowed to leave any rice on your plate! I am really going to have to practice.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The solution to the food/energy/whatever crisis

I've been thinking about this food waste problem, because I want to do my bit to save fuel, or the economy, or the Ethiopians, or whatever it is one saves by not casting out unwanted food (bearing in mind that it is also a sin to be fat). What we require is an engine that can take in large quantities of stale food continuously, without developing a blockage, and convert it to kinetic energy. The solution already exists: it is called a Dog. All we need is some really big dogs and a lot more treadmills.

Friday, 11 July 2008

The English Climate

I love nothing so much as a thunder storm. We don't get many in this country. I'm tempted to move back to the tropics, but the spiders are bigger there. I think I'll just stay here and pretend I don't mind the fact that two weeks in April now constitute the English summer. It's all my fault anyway, for wasting food and thus contributing to global warming - "Gordon Brown has urged families to make saving food as important as saving energy as he arrived for a crunch G8 meeting with world leaders." We used to have proper weather in England but now what we have is a Nanny climate.

Monday, 7 July 2008


Someone rang the doorbell this evening. I feared it might be Christians, but it was only a woman collecting for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. I gave her £2 - you never know when you might need a lifeboat.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

King of the beasts

Pussy Kirk often displays leonine manners at the food bowl as he shoulders Pussy Janeway out of the way and snarfs her dinner (boys first, might is right). I wish him to extend this sort of behaviour to the outside world. He must defend the home against our insolent neighbours, who caterwaul in the early hours, leave insults on the front lawn, and spray the plant holders in the back yard. If he is to put them in their place he needs a clear example of the proper attitude to strike.

I first thought of the Maltese lion:

but this creature does not inspire respect (though it brings to mind Kirk's piteous cries when the food bowl is empty).

The Chinese lion, guarding the portals of a restaurant at the cruise ship terminal in Valetta, goes too far in the direction of ferocity:

The ancient Greek lion in the British museum, though impressive and dignified, is a little too distant to convey the right degree of vigilance.

Here is what we need:

One of the four Landseer lions in Trafalgar Square, he frowns down at the milling crowd, knowing that one swat of his majestic paw can quell it.

But here is what we have: