Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Grown-Up Debates R4 Other Countries

Maybe you saw the recent “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die” documentary on BBC2. Perhaps you’ve commented on it on some forum somewhere. If you have commented then the chances are you didn’t watch the documentary but have instead been told a comforting lie to bolster your way of thinking. 

   For those who care and for the far greater number who couldn’t really give a damn let me point out some of the factors missed or glossed over by other commentators.

   Suicide is legal in this country.

   Seriously. Hasn’t been a crime since the early sixties. You can’t be prosecuted for attempting it (although repeated unsuccessful attempt may push a medical professional to diagnose a case of mental instability).

   This is suicide we’re talking about. Suicide by healthy people who are suffering a loss (bereavement, loss of income or position, just been dumped) is commonly attempted but is still not a crime. If life is sacred then why aren’t the religious or the ethically baffled attempting to redress this decision? Is it because you’ve been diverted onto this issue because the ill and infirm represent a trickier body of subjects into whom you can interject your weak arguments?

   (Hang on, Trev.  You sound awfully cross about this. Steady on. Some people have perfectly valid views about assisted dying. You shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them.)





Ok, let’s make this fair. Take out the word “valid” ...


“People might feel undue pressure to end their lives.”

Where is the evidence to support this claim? There are several countries in Europe and two states in America that allow assisted dying. There is plenty of data to scour for figures to support that claim. Those figures do not exist.*

People already feel pressure to end their lives and still attempt it in horrific ways, often unsuccessfully. The evidence suggests that this is actually alleviated by the option of suicide being available. The comfort of the possibility of a controlled end with dignity can allow people to choose hospice or palliative care. The existence of Dignitas correlates with an increase in spending in these areas. Switzerland is talking about the difficult subject and everybody wins (a qualified win – sure – but a win nonetheless).

“Life is sacred.”

That’s your opinion. Can you be sure you wouldn’t change your mind if tortured by a degenerative condition for years? Still, even if you are unshakeable that life is sacred – your life still is. Nobody is forcing you to drink the poison. If you are of the opinion that people who disagree with you don’t know any better and should be protected from their ignorance then that is totalitarian thinking and unacceptable.

“If we allow this then where will it end?”

Seriously? Disability activist Liz Carr kept returning to this one and only argument in the after show debate. I was stunned. Disabled people rarely get a voice in the youth-driven, beauty obsessed media. I was appalled to see one of the disabled voices on that show talking out of her arse.

If you have evidence for this “slipping into eugenics” of which you are so fearful then let’s see it. If you don’t then it’s just a slippery slope fallacy and beneath you.

“We should only talk about terminal illnesses and they’re dying soon anyway.”

“Soon” is a very subjective term. And people have been chuffed about the term “weary of life” used to describe 20% of the subjects who die at Dignitas. “Look, there are a few glum teenagers – Goths, probably – who end it all. They would have gone on to discover High School Musical and Jesus if they had lived.” 

While that sounds to me more like an argument for suicide let me remind you that suicide is legal here. A ‘leave no mess for my parents/partner/children to clear up’ option is possibly the most debatable of the problems here but it would be allowed here. Enshrined in law. Case closed. Shut up and go home.

The Dignitas deaths described didn’t have a terminal illness. That’s all. In the debate Liz Carr tried to argue that Multiple Sclerosis isn’t terminal. I’m biting my lip not to cuss at Liz because she has usually put the time in to consider these matters but MS not being terminal is a case of semantic pissmouth. “It’s not the noose that’s going to kill you – it’s planet Earth and that pesky gravity that gets the job done.”

Please grow up. 

There are plenty of other conditions that perhaps they didn’t discuss on camera that diminish quality of life. Quality of life is a consideration in this country. It’s a measurable unit used in equations to work out NHS spending policy. Don’t imagine that it’s too ephemeral a notion to define. People are defining it but you know what? If somebody wants to stay alive ... they can still choose to. 

At the moment the best way to be allowed to die is to contract something too expensive to treat. Then consent and influence are ignored. That is a cruel reality but then people appear to have great skill in avoiding those.

   I can’t stand anecdotal arguments so I’m not going to enter into it here but I probably will on Friday when we talk about this on think/RANT. Please comment here (or there where I will probably repost this) as the scope of differing opinion between the co-hosts is fairly narrow (it's how we don't get into fights) and a few shouty but intelligent arguments would be welcome.

*The studies done in these countries and states have overwhelmingly shown a positive outcome for all involved. The meta-analyses (which root out poorly controlled studies whether they support or reject a certain outcome and collate the figures to show a larger pool of data) are even more convincing.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Live Broadcasts R4 Other People

Hullo again. Crikey, what happened to April? (Don’t worry – I know what blogs are like. One day I’ll be writing “Crikey, what happened to the last three years?”)

   Anyway I thought it best to prepare a bit of explanation ahead of the inevitable “car crash” episode of a podcast I’ve been appearing on -"think/RANT" - with two very dear friends, Johnathan Stabler and Steve Brett. Well, maybe not dear friends but we get on very well indeed. Maybe not very well but we’re polite to each other. Okay, we’re a trio of belligerent spite monkeys but we enjoy mulling over the week’s news in a great podcast called “think/rant” which I joined from episode 23.

   The thing is ... it’s recorded live. And it’s available for live streaming.

   This has two very important ramifications. Firstly, there is no editing so I would ask any listener to imagine our chat, banter and repartee to be at least 35% funnier and more professional than it first appears. Maybe even 38%. We should take out the awkward silences, fumbled words, talking over each other and general twatty behaviour but I don’t have the first clue how. I don’t think Steve will be too upset if I refer to John as the technical brains behind the operation. If John sat down to edit the thing he would – and I’m paraphrasing here – “take about ten hours fine-tuning a one hour bloody podcast because I’m a little bit of an OCD control freak. And I have a new baby. Cut me some slack, Trev. Jesus.”

   Or something like that. I don’t remember it all. Bit scary.

   Secondly, there is no editing. If that sounds to you a little bit like point one then congratulations – it is, but there is another serious problem. One of the biggest problems with being variously spazzy* is that I can suffer (don’t you hate the martyrdom in that word?) mental as well as physical aberrations. I have believed bizarre crap while hypoing. I have behaved like an aggressive/ weepy/ terrified idiot for no explicable reason. I have had a phone call whereupon the recipient had time to drive over and treat my hypo while I maintained the hallucinatory conversation with them long after they had hung up (it’s very alarming to tell somebody not to interrupt you because you’re still on the phone – with them).
   The point is that some kind of disaster is fairly inevitable at some point but I will delay it for as long as possible. High blood sugar is the least likely time to have any problems (though a sudden drop from high to less-high is still a problem for me) so I engineer a bit of high blood sugar 8-9 every Thursday night. It means I have to usually top up with a small dose of insulin and stay up a bit later moderating it but I enjoy the hour so it’s worth the kerfuffle. 

   So this entry is for anybody hoping to enjoy think/rant and understand what’s going on; for anybody I may have upset or offended with awful comments or outlandish behaviour; for anybody who enjoys watching formula one only for the crashes and hopes to listen for a similar reason. 

   I may, of course, say something that offended you and truly mean it. I have lots of patience for most people most of the time (I can’t afford not to, to be fair) but the podcast is where we give opinion full reign – that is the point. There’s a good chance I will be annoying somebody (though not purposefully offensive I hope) with sane and well-thought argument but I might just as likely be out of my tree. 

   That’s my (main) problem and hopefully it won’t ruin the podcast. I think a podcast, though, is where my limit lies on “live” performance. If you know how to download a pocast (or indeed, what the Hell a podcast is) then you pretty much know what you’re going to get. A radio broadcast or similar is something people can whine about with greater authority, I believe. So here it is. My standing apology for if (or when) the condition of my conditions leads me to have a brainfart of some kind.

   Don’t forget you can contact the podcast if you have any questions, leave a comment here or at think/RANT’s blog page. I, of course, expect there to be no reply whatsoever until I have an “episode” on an episode.

   See you then. 

*It’s a reclamation of the word, okay? It’s worth doing don’t you think? Cerebral Palsy, spastic colon, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and a bunch of other disorders causing spasms or spasticity (for both of which the term “Spaz” has been applied) have been limited by language and need to reclaim it. The “OUCH” BBC radio show is doing a good job with similar words and should be congratulated for it. People are either terrified to talk to a “fitter” for fear of causing offence or are happy to call them “Spaz” as a powerful condemnation. Screw that.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Religions R4 the Religious

Hi, everybody (I say everybody – I mean several ... I say several – I mean both ... I say both ...). Come in, have a seat. I’d offer you a biscuit but even if I had successfully fit all of that last one in the computer I don’t think it would have arrived in an edible state. How have you been? Have you done something different with your hair? It looks gorgeous.
   So, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been very busy. I’m sure you’ve been busier but then I’m very, very lazy (I pronounce it “ill” – my partner assures me it’s spelt L.A.Z.Y).
   It’s been a while since I posted anything, right? Well, I have been studying a (part-time obviously) course that lasted eleven weeks so that’s the excuse I’m using. I’ve contributed (is “contributed” the right word for someone who arrives, slags off, talks crap and giggles for an hour?) to a podcast called think/rant. You might want to check it out and even post a review on iTunes. Unless you hate it in which case let’s just both pretend it didn’t happen.
   I’ve got at least one future appearance booked where I intend to rip founder host John a new metaphorical arsehole about the comfortably nihilistic view of Determinism (and hopefully we’ll have another “Religion is a force for good: discuss” rant – I like those) but for now if you want to pretend like you’re in a pub with three poorly informed creepy gob-shites then get episode 23 now. You won’t/will/may regret it (delete as applicable).
   Finally I’d like to remind everybody about their census forms (a day late but come on – you haven’t got around to it either, have you?). In 2001 we all thought we’d be a bit clever and put Jedi on our forms to point out the insanity of insisting that people must identify with a religion. Apparently more of us did that than identified as Hindu but I can’t find the stats so it may be an urban myth (my Google-Fu isn’t up to it – wait ... is Google-Fu another religion?).
   I’d just like to point out something to everybody who doesn’t go to church, doesn’t believe that Christ died for our sins, rose on the third day etc. Please tick the “no religion” box. Don’t worry – they won’t take Christmas away from us. They won’t stop Easter. You can identify culturally as a Christian to oppose things like Sharia law. Sure, I can see that. But you don’t have to line up with Christianity to do it. There is no external benefit to being a Christian.
   Faith schools are not the panacea for education they appear to be, for example. The slightly higher grades they achieve is actually – when you take into account that they refuse admission to “trouble” kids (nice Christian attitude there, by the way) - a lot lower than it should be. The more dogmatic a church is the less charitable it is (if you dismiss donations to churches and pressure groups – as you should).
    You don’t have to call yourself a Christian to be a good person. Look at you – you’re lovely.
   I know only the die-hards have sent their forms back already. It’s only the couldn’t-really-care-lesses left. I hope you do care a bit though. Anglican bishops in the House of Lords are still ruling our lives. Religious dogma stops sensible compassionate laws like assisted suicide, global sex education* and contraception being promoted. Help to take away their unearned legitimacy. We’re not trying to take away their churches or their lovely hats. They can keep them.
   Believe what you want. Don’t tick a box out of fear. Cheers.

*although I’m not entirely sure what global sex is. I’d love to try it.