Tuesday, 20 July 2010

BBC Bias

Oh, flippin' 'Enry, BBC! What is all this? Sorry about the strong language, but what do you think you're up to? Yesterday on TV's 6 o'clock news, Radio 4's World Tonight and on the World Service in the night you headlined Tony Nicklinson's demand for the DPP to allow his wife to kill him (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10689294). As I understand it he had a massive stroke which has left him paralysed, able to communicate only with his eye and head movement. He is 'fed up' with his locked-in state. Big international story? And by the way was a prolonged commentary by Debbie Purdy on the World Service your much vaunted balanced treatment? I suspect it's launched by the pro-euthanasia lobby to coincide with the 'silly season' of little real news when broadcasters want to fill the airtime with whatever comes to hand.

But the point is, we heard all about him, but what about the case of John Millar? 'Who?' you ask. Well, that's it. He's the Edinburgh pensioner who last year tried to smother his wife, Phyllis, who has Multiple Sclerosis, with a pillow. She explicitly told him she didn't want to die. He was her sole carer. He told the police, "She would be dead and out of the way." He was sentenced last week. That story was conspicuous by its absence from the headlines. It does appear on the BBC website, in fact - on Scotland News, Edinburgh East and Fife (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10631843). In other words tucked away in a local news page. But it's a paradigm case of why changing the law mustn't happen, because had he succeeded the only witness to her murder would have been dead and his defence would have been compassion and her request. She's now being cared for in a nursing home, but what a traumatic experience... So where's the BBC's level playing field?

How did I come to hear the story? It was actually through the Canadian blogger I follow. How ironic is that! One more thought on the sad story of Tony Nicklinson. I wonder if when he had his stroke his doctors intervened to resuscitate him and whether his family desperately hoped and asked them to save him. I would imagine they did. It would have been only natural. But rather than killing him now, perhaps it would have been better to 'let nature take its course' then. That's of course an infinitely difficult decision, and requires extraordinary wisdom. But perhaps society as a whole should have the courage to say to families, "If we make this person survive, do you realise what that might mean - indefinite years of dependence on their part and care on your part. It will an irrevocable commitment."

The news-story about Ali Mohmet al-Magrahi also gave me pause for thought. You remember he's the Libyan Lockerbie bomber who was released a year ago by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds because he had 'terminal' prostate cancer, with an estimated 3 months to live. Well, he's still going strong and the cancer specialist, Professor Karol Sikora, of CancerPartners UK, who diagnosed him, was quoted in the Sunday Times last week as saying, "There was always a chance that he could live for 10 years, 20 years ... but it's very unusual.... There was a 50 per cent chance he would die in three months, but there was also a 50 per cent chance he would live longer." Much of the euthanasia campaign is dressed up as a way out for those with 'terminal' illnesses. What exactly does that mean? As I've said elsewhere, we are all in a terminal condition. But if one of our leading cancer professors can give a 3-month prognosis and then admit he was only 50% sure, it seems we are on very slippery ground in categorising terminal conditions. After all Debbie Purdy herself is having an eventful life, and so am I, to say nothing of Stephen Hawking, and we all technically have a terminal illness. I have many friends who have had cancer and are living full lives. What I fear is that doctors could be induced to make a terminal diagnosis and it be a ground for assisting suicide or euthanasia. Life, even one like mine, is infinitely rich and precious.

I was glad to find out that I Choose Everything is being enjoyed by all sorts and conditions. Sales are going well. But here's an example of it being inwardly digested for real. To be fair, it wasn't Jess who was chewing on the good things in it. We just got her to pose! Seriously, if you want to think about the looming issues around euthansia, it wouldn't be a bad place to start.

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