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    • The baby and the mouse


      The mouse: “Hey, you – baby, over there! That’s my cheese!”

      The baby: “Finders keepers losers weepers, my friend.”

      The mouse: “Ah, come on mate. You’ve got an endless supply of milk at the drop of a tear. You’re constantly the centre of attention and everyone around you is desperate to please you. I, on the other hand, am a tiny little rodent who lives under the cracks in the floorboards. My mum was killed by your cat last month and I’m an orphan. That cheese is the only thing I have left to live for.”

      The baby: “Hmm, when you put it like that …”

      The mouse: “You have an average lifespan of about 80 (well, depending on your socio-economic status), whereas I’ll, at most, live for a few months (if I’m lucky). Not to be hard-done-by or anything, but you can see where I’m going with this …”

      The baby: “Well yes, to an extent my lifespan does look rosier than yours. But if I contract something like cancer …”

      The mouse:  “If you contract something like cancer one of my comrades from the old days will undergo tests to ensure that you survive. In fact, they’re busy down at the lab as we speak! I probably won’t see my poor brother again, but he’s a hero in my eyes.”

      The baby: “Um, not sure if you read the paper this morning or just bit your way through it, but the latest news is that a high-profile boycott campaign is being launched by animal rights campaigners, Animal Aid. They’re planning to take out a series of newspaper adverts urging the public to stop giving money to four of the biggest health charities in the UK, including Cancer Research, unless they end their support for animal testing. Which leaves us more than a little screwed!”

      The mouse: “Oh …”

      The baby: “Oh indeed. The said campaigners have released a report called ‘Victims of Charity’ which have highlighted charity-funded tests which caused ‘appalling suffering’ to animals. And its director, Andrew Tyler, has said that “the public do not like the idea of animals enduring great suffering to no purpose.”

      The mouse: “If you don’t mind me saying so, I think that’s both irresponsible and damaging.”

      The baby: “I don’t mind you saying so at all – in fact, you have just merely echoed the words of the charities and scientists who are equally appalled by what’s going on. And as Professor Tipu Aziz, who used animals as part of his work on Alzheimer’s, said: ‘if you stop animal research you will stop medical progress’. Which means, buster, my life may not be as rich as you initially anticipated.”

      The mouse: “In that case … wanna share my cheese?” 




    • Dying to die


      There’s a new TV show on tonight and I can’t wait to watch it! It basically films a group of teenagers travelling to Amsterdam to legally enjoy weed, which can be consumed as freely as a cup of tea is over here.

      No? Don’t tickle your pickle? Well then you can always tune in next week to a documentary on paedophilia. Apparently paedophiles operate unchecked in many European countries, such as Brussels and Prague. An overly-friendly presenter will be flying overseas to document a day in the life of these people, and is sure to encourage any like-minded people to do the same.

      Can you imagine? The horror, the scandal, the sheer disbelief! No upstanding, respectable broadcaster in this country would ever dabble in subject matter such as this.

      Apart from the BBC, that is.

      Okay, they’ve had their fair share of controversy over the years. Hell, we don’t even need to look further back than last Christmas, as the baby-swap storyline in Eastenders both simultaneously shook and stunned the nation, and is still reverberating now with the too-intimate-for-some scenes recently portrayed between two homosexuals.

      But at some point, we must distinguish between the inherent button-pressing nature of a soap, and a real-life documentation of an event which is not even legal in this country.

      Even calling it ‘real-life’ is a bit misleading. Because this week’s highly contentious Choosing to Die by euthanasia campaigner, Sir Terry Pratchett had about as much to do with life as Princess Diana does.

      900 complaints followed the documentary, which portrayed a 71- year old motor neurone disease sufferer dying on camera after arranging the legally assisted suicide and flying to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to carry it out.

      You see, whilst assisted suicide is illegal in this country (and most other countries), it is very much an accepted part of the constitution in Switzerland.

      “I was ashamed that British people had to drag themselves to Switzerland at considerable cost in order to get the services that they were hoping for”, Pratchett said.

      Now, despite agreeing with British law on this particular issue, my comment today is not to preach about the value of human life. I’ve read enough articles and engaged in enough debates to appreciate that there is always another side to the argument.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”, Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird. And I’m thankful every day that I cannot profess to understand the desires of someone who no longer wants to live.

      However, broadcasting it on national television is another issue altogether. “While it might not seem fair to say that you can’t show something because of what viewers theoretically might do in response”, the YouTube guidelines lay out, “we draw the line at content that’s intended to incite violence, encourages or shows dangerous or illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death.” And if this is the protocol of an internet sensation, then why is the BBC so reluctant to adhere to the same principles?

      If I wasn’t so appalled by the whole thing, I’d actually be able to appreciate the irony in the decision to broadcast the programme. You see, my main issue with Dignitas is its sheer willingness to publically normalise suicide in what is rapidly in danger of becoming ‘just another clinic.’ And regardless of whether or not people should be able to legally assist a loved one who has decided that living is no longer for them (which I can appreciate may well be a human-rights necessity), I don’t believe that this is an act which should be glorified beyond closed doors. Engaging with a clinic to commit suicide is the most perverse action imaginable, because a clinic, of any sort, is meant to prolong life, not cut it short. So too, with the documentary. By all means, fight, plead, and campaign for the right to help another die, if that’s really what you believe. But to publically broadcast this on national television AND potentially encourage others to follow suit is just a step too far for my liking.

      Dignitas has already seen more than 1,000 foreigners travel there to die, and of those 160 were British. Does it really need any more publicity?

       

       




    • When doctors cross the line


      It’s been a trying week for GPs, what with the not-so-glowing news reports which have been plaguing the headlines. First was the religious debacle, as a Christian GP is now left fighting for his job after suggesting a patient could find solace in Jesus. Then we were left, shocked, at the revelation that a doctor had sex with a cancer patient in her bath during a home visit after being ‘flattered’ by the attention she gave him. And then, the best headline of them all: “GPs will be paid extra to tell patients they are fat.”

      Now I’m not saying that the intention behind this isn’t admirable; obesity, as we all know too well, is a growing concern which must be addressed. But why doctors feel the need to be paid more for doing what should be part of their job description anyway boggles the mind.  

      Nevertheless, the GP-centered news reel continues to spin, with reports that nationally, 13.5 million GP appointments are missed annually, at an estimated cost to the NHS of ?180 million, and that there has been a rise in the number of parents taking their children to hospitals' accident and emergency departments for non-emergency treatments.

      Speculation as to why contact hours between doctor and patient have decreased so significantly has been rife, with some suggesting that the increase could be down to a fall in the number of GPs offering an out-of-hours service. “Parents have found in the last few years that accessing primary care is more difficult than previously”, said president of the College of Emergency Medicine, John Heyworth.

      But I’m desperate to understand why and where this confusion has stemmed from. For correct me if I’m wrong, but putting the entire weeks-worth of GP-related-news together seems to give a pretty clear picture.

      A holier-than-thou attitude? An over-hyped sexual appetite? Telling your patients that they’re fat? It’s like THAT relationship all over again. Is it really any wonder that we’re missing our appointments?

      Yes. I said it. If reports are to be believed, it would seem that GPs are becoming worse than the worst boyfriend.

      So Doctor, don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s us. And don’t worry, we’ll call you.

       




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