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Tinfoil Hat

A New Standard for Medics: Perfection

12 Mar, 11 | by Iain Brassington

Lord knows why, but I keep going back to Secondhand Smoke, the pro-life, global-warmin’-denyin’, public-healthcare-hatin’, intelligent-design-lovin’,  Daily-Mail-quotin’ blog written by Discovery Institute affiliated lawyer Wesley Smith.  I try to stay away, but like a child peeping between his fingers while hiding his eyes, I’m just fascinated by it.

A recent post concerns a Kiwi woman whose doctors removed her life-support machine in the belief that it was futile.  This was contrary to the wishes of her parents, who are acupuncturists who “had drawn on specialist acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for support during the critical period when life support was withdrawn”.  She survived.

In Smith’s telling of the story, the doctors “forced” the patient off the machine – which, to be honest, can’t have been all that hard given that she was unconscious.  He goes on:

This is a warning.  Doctors don’t know everything.  Hospitals are not always right.

Well, yeah.  But that doesn’t mean that they oughtn’t to have made the decision that they made.  Isn’t it obvious that medics don’t have perfect foresight?  Isn’t it obvious that there’s always going to be the odd (very odd) recoveries from miserable situations?  That doesn’t mean that it’s illegitimate to make decisions about futility, or that it’s illegitimate to act on them.  It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to make decisions based on medical judgement.  Couldn’t we equally well say that recovery was evidence that the life-support machine wasn’t necessary anyway, and ought to have been withdrawn a lot sooner (and perhaps not used at all)?  After all, if you’re going to play on medical fallibility, you can’t pick and choose between mistakes.

Is Smith saying that it’s always impermissible to remove treatment based on judgement short of godlike omniscience?  Strange.

Ethics (without the brain?)

15 Feb, 11 | by Iain Brassington

I’ve set my RSS to receive updates from Secondhand Smoke, which is one of the blogs at First Things.  It’s written by Wesley Smith, who is affiliated to the Discovery Institute, the creationist thinktank in Seattle: that gives you an indication of the sort of position he occupies – not just on bioethics, but also on global warming, socialised medicine and probably a lot else – so it’s no surprise that I disagree with a lot of what he posts.

I mention this now because I’m currently thinking about the way that euthanasia, and medical killing more generally, get represented in the media, and I’m interested in how the blogosphere handles it.  My general hypothesis is that a lot of the coverage is distorting, and is so in a way that harms public debate, and causes unnecessary fear among vulnerable groups.  (I mentioned my suspicion here a while ago.  For the record, I don’t think that the anti-euthanasia lobby is uniquely open to criticism here, either: the defenders also sometimes seem to have a habit of focusing on isolation, indignity and so on as being inescapably the overwhelming and plainly undesirable characteristics of certain lives, particularly among the old and disabled, such that not considering death is seen as bizarre.  Though I’m sympathetic to the legalisation of euthanasia, I think it’s possible to overplay a good moral hand.)

recent post by Smith is a nice illustration of what I mean (and suspect).   more…

Odone and the CPS: Scaremongering about Euthanasia

27 Oct, 10 | by Iain Brassington

The Centre for Policy Studies has recently published a report on euthanasia, authored by Cristina Odone.  It’s available to download here, though it would seem that you can also buy a paper version for a tenner.  It’s amazing for the sheer poverty of the argument; I might never have thought that so much specious nonsense could be crammed into 60 pages had I not seen it.  Indeed, there’s a good part of me that finds the whole thing hilarious – and it would be, were it not so dispiriting.

There’s barely a paragraph that doesn’t have some objection; but I’m aware that I sometimes go on a bit, so I’m going to limit myself to highlighting a few particular highlights.  But, really, if you’ve a spare moment, it shouldn’t be hard to find other howlers. more…

Slightly Gratuitous Abuse of the Blog…

9 Apr, 10 | by Iain Brassington

Someone’s just asked me if it’d be possible to design a virus specifically to kill people with a certain given genetic signature.  I have a feeling that the South African security services tried to cook up an ethnically specific biological agent in the ’80s, but am not sure whether this is an urban myth.  Any suggestions?

Similarly, would it be possible to engineer a virus to deliver some kind of gene therapy for this or that condition, and then release it into the wild?  (I’ll ignore the moral problems of treatment without consent – I’m just interested in the possibility at the moment.)  Has there been anything published on this theme?*

*I’m sure there has.  What I actually meant was, “Could someone give me a reference or two?”.

Mental Illness – even if it’s Gordon Brown’s – is not Interesting.

12 Sep, 09 | by Iain Brassington

Dependably right-wing blogger Paul “Guido Fawkes” Staines has been circulating the idea that Gordon Brown may be taking anti-depressants – specifically, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors – under the touching and understanding heading “Is Brown Bonkers?”  and making some sniggering schoolboy allusions to Malcolm Tucker-like tantrums.  This allegation – and quite why it’s an allegation is beyond me – leads Fawkes to muse that

[i]n the context of all this speculation and his manifest physical unease, surely somebody in the Lobby has to publicly ask the question at the PM’s next monthly briefing: “Prime Minister, have you been taking medication that may affect your judgement?”

But it’s not just Staines that’s casting doubt on Brown’s mental health: he’s asked me to point out, and I’m happy to clarify, that he’s simply following up a story in the Independent that was saying the same thing, except more speculatively (and coquettishly)

Senior Whitehall bods are reported as noting that [Brown] was recently given a long list of things he absolutely must avoid, and that among these are Chianti and cheese. Both are well-known for causing a violent, even lethal reaction to a specific group of heavy duty antidepressants known as MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors).

See how it works: there’s a rumour that Brown has been given a list of foods to avoid, a suggestion that this might be because of some medication, and BINGO! he’s a nutcase.  Of course, because his article’s in the Indy, Matthew Norman is careful to add all kinds of “Of course, I’m not saying…” caveats –

[w]hether literally the case or not, however, this rumour carries the kind of psychological truth that tends to be more damaging than fact.

– but only after having demanded disclosure:

You’d have thought that whether our Prime Minister is severely clinically depressed falls loosely under the public interest header, but what can you do? Our political system regards secrecy less as desirable than its raison d’etre.

See?  From “There might be some foods the PM’s avoiding” to “There’s a conspiracy to cover up the fact that he’s bananas” in two easy steps, with a little side-helping of “I’m not saying that… except I am” as a garnish.  Of course, there’s a range of references to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, natch, because there was a law passed in 1473 saying that every media story about mental health had to have at least one such citation.  Possibly.

There’s a range of things to question about this story: more…

Swine Flu enters X-Files Territory

3 Jul, 09 | by Iain Brassington

It was only a matter of time before people started to come up with “evidence” that swine flu is all a hoax cooked up to allow the lizard illuminati Bildeberg New World Order freemasons to take over the world… and it’s happening now – this time courtesy of someone using the same name as a BMJ reporter (I’m not sure that it is the same person – but the page I’ve cited here makes the link).

(Actually, come to think of it, we’ve been here before… remember this?)

Here’s a sample of the claim: more…

The Telegraph has Got me Worried – or Given me an Investment Idea

15 Jun, 09 | by Iain Brassington

A short time ago, I mentioned George Pitcher’s extraordinarily lame showing on the Today programme, when he was invited to talk about assisted suicide.  I included a link to his blog – and, I admit it, this was partly intended so that he’d get an “incoming link” notification and either make a comment here, or refer to my post there.

As far as I can tell, he’s done neither.  However, he has excelled himself when it comes to euthanasia paranoia.  He posted on the subject on the day of the Radio 4 interview, and you can read the full thing here if you really want.  I’m going to pick on a short extract:

And another thing: We have a growing elderly population, living longer, and palliative care is very expensive. It couldn’t be that the Government sees the ballooning NHS budget and realises that one way to save a bit would be for our senior citizens to be encouraged to top themselves?

Nothing would surprise me anymore.

Ahhh… wild speculation and scaremongering dressed as argument.  Rewarding stuff.

Of course, I’d like to think that things couldn’t get stupider… but, it seems, they can.  One should never underoverestimate the contributors to Telegraph blogs.  “BritishPatriot” has to have his poorly-spelled say on the subject:

In 1970 when Aborion was legalised they said it would only be used in extreme circumstances, we now have abortion clinics, err, sorry pregnancy advice centres in every town where potential mothers are lulled into aborting what they are told are ‘just cells’
7.2 Million British Babies later, we face a Demographics Timebomb.
Now they want to sterilise our Schoolgirls.
This Euthenasia drive they are trying ti get us to agree to is so they can asset strip the British Elderly then do away with them in their Privatised ‘clinic’
The EU doesn’t want you, they know you will not vote for the EU so they are getting rid of you every way they can.
WAKE UP !!!!

If I don’t contribute to this blog for a while, it’ll be for one of two reasons.  Either Gordon Brown and the entire staff of the European Commission will personally have come round to my house to euthanise me (coldly ignoring my cries of “No!  Really!  I’m all in favour of the EU and would sign up to Schengen and the Euro lickety-split!”), or I’ll have bought shares in Bacofoil and have moved to a private island in the Carribean.

Because there seems to be a growing market in tinfoil hats that needs to be exploited.


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