RENT A MOB

I have been reading with sorrow the tragedy of Alfie Evans who, according to some of the best medical specialists in the country, is terminally ill with no prospect of recovery, let alone being able to lead a normal life.  As before with Charlie Gard, the highest courts in the land have considered all the available evidence and have with heavy hearts granted an application to turn off Alfie’s life support machine and let him die.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the latest challenge because it was the same legal argument – albeit with a different legal term – that they made in February and March and moving him to a hospital in Italy, his father’s wish, was “contrary to his best interests”.

The judges said: “The application of a different legal label… does not change the fact that the court has already determined the issues which the parents now seek, again, to advance.”  For my part, I do not understand why the parents are being advised to return to the courts again and again and again, when it should be quite obvious that the courts’ decision will be the same, again and again and again.  As any competent lawyer should know, repetition does not make a bad point better.

“The views of the parents do not take precedence and do not give them an ‘unfettered right’ to make choices and exercise rights on behalf of Alfie.”

The judges said Alfie was not being “detained” in hospital or “deprived of his liberty… the doctrine of habeas corpus.”

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital has said continuing to treat Alfie, who has an undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition, was “inhumane” and “futile”.

It said taking him abroad for treatment was “expressly not in his best interests”, adding: “Our priority is to continue providing Alfie with the best care possible.”

Of course I feel for the parents who are clutching at straws in their distress, hoping against hope for a miracle, and suddenly, judging from the reports in the Media, everybody is a expert, and presumably, that includes Alfie’s dad and his megaphone.

But what I find all the more distressing is the emergence of the mob culture when compassion and wise counsel should prevail.  This ‘rent a mob’ appears time and again to shout and scream and jostle and threaten, regardless of the ’cause’ they seek to espouse, even if they bothered to inform themselves, which they don’t.  Disinformation, not information, is their only weapon in their battle against law and order and reason.

This mob travels from one hotspot to another, ready to challenge the ‘status quo’ with their confrontational behaviour.  They can’t be reasoned with, as reasoning is alien to their culture and an intellectual exercise they are incapable of performing.  Their demeanour and banners of hate are the same, whether it’s women’s rights, or slavery, or Tory scum, or Jews, or doctors, or Uncle Tom Cobley, and so it goes on. With Alfie Evans, the mob forces their way into Alder Hay Hospital, disrupting the work of doctors and nurses, regardless of the consequences, which means that the police, with better things to do, or at least I hope so, are called to deal with an unlawful assembly.

What those who use the services of the mob fail to understand is that the price to be paid by confrontation achieves very little.  They have no room in a civilised society, and civilised people will pay them scant regard.

There is now a determined but futile effort to take Alfie to Rome, apparently with the blessing of the Pope.  Whilst the Holy Father is a powerful figure in the Catholic community, not even he can perform miracles, so to pretend otherwise is a cruel deception.

Far better for the parents to receive specialist counselling to prepare themselves for what comes next, and most important of all, to act in Alfie’s best interests.  It is not in his best interests to suffer needlessly.

 

DEATH BECOMES US ALL

Tony Nicklinson and the mysterious ‘M’ cannot have their miserable lives ended by medical intervention. This was the ruling given the other day by the High Court.  In Tony’s case, the question posed was whether a doctor could be prosecuted for murder if he administered a lethal injection, knowing that this was the oft repeated wish of Tony and his long suffering wife.

The judge ruled on the law as he found it, and that’s what judges are supposed to do.  Regardless of where his sympathies lay, and he could not have been deaf to Tony’s plight, it would amount to legalised murder and, if condoned, could open a Pandora’s box.  A somewhat simplistic approach, but understandable nonetheless.

In the recent past, the Courts have come close to interfering with the ‘human rights’ of individuals, using as their justification the Mantra that “each case must be decided on its own particular facts”.  Male circumcision was one, much to the consternation of the Jewish community, where the ‘snip’ without informed consent could be a breach of the infant’s human rights, and the sterilisation of a mentally defective woman was another.

Not so long ago, the Court of Appeal had to consider the thorny question of assisted suicide against the background of Dignitas, the Swiss clinic, where those wishing to end their lives can do so with dignity, surrounded by their loved ones. The presence of their loved ones gave rise to a possible charge and prosecution for assisting the suicide, so the Court, instead of determining the issue themselves, passed the buck to the Director of Public Prosecutions.  He, in turn, invoked the Mantra that each case must be decided on its own particular facts, and nobody, least of all the Court of Appeal, was any the wiser.

It is strange but true that until the Suicide Act 1961, it was a criminal offence to commit suicide.  Quite how you prosecute a corpse has never been satisfactorily explained, but this harks back to the days when the Catholic Church reigned supreme, and when suicide was a mortal sin, depriving the sinner of the chance to meet St. Peter at the pearly gates and casting him forever into the depths of hell and all that.

Whilst it may be right for the judge in the Nicklinson case to pass the buck to the government, in the unlikely event they may wish to amend the law of murder, I can see no reason why each case cannot be decided on its own particular facts. The only reason why Nicklinson is festering here instead of ending his life in Switzerland is that he is totally incapacitated except for his eyelids.  These are his sole means of communication, and as I understand it, effective enough to tell anybody who cares to listen that he wants to die.

One possible solution to this impasse is a Judicial Review, not in the accepted legal sense, but similar to an Inquiry, where all interested parties are represented, and if the judge, or judges, conclude that there is no prospect of recovery, and that Nicklinson, as a man of sound mind,  is able to convey his wish to die, it cannot be morally right to deny him his wish and keep him alive and imprisoned in a useless body.

I hope to God that if I find myself in a similar position, somebody will listen to me, respect my wishes, and allow me to die with dignity.  After all, according to my faith, I will go to a far better place, and I will take my chances with St. Peter.

Postscript: On the 22nd August 2012, six days after the High Court condemned him to live, Tony Nicklinson defied the judges, the doctors, and the pro-life opponents who prolonged his suffering, and died despite them all.