Monday, 26 September 2011

Medic’s Poetry Contest

‘Poetry contest reminds trainee medics that patients are people, not machines’

 An absolutely brilliant idea...

 The "brutalising" effect of medical training, with its heavy focus on hard science, has long concerned John Martin.

 Now, the professor of cardiovascular medicine at University College London has done something to tackle the problem, which he argues can leave medics "thinking about people as molecular machines rather than as whole human beings with 'souls'".

"The humanities can help doctors understand that they are not engineers but have both a scientific and a human function in relation to their patients," he explained.

 Some of the poems submitted can be read at:

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Hospital Chaplains

I was looking at a hospital chaplaincy board yesterday; all three Chaplains were Christian (two CofE and one Catholic). I have thought about this Christian weighting before but have not really considered it in any depth. Who can patients (and their families/ friends) turn to if they are not Christian? What if they are atheist/ humanist for instance? Do people feel offended or left out?

I have done a little reading on this topic this morning and have found that Humanist Chaplains (which seems an oxymoron at first) are becoming more popular particularly in University settings (both Harvard University and the University of Glasgow have Humanist Chaplains). It does seem  to me to be sensible and worthwhile to have an individual who can talk to and support patients who hold no particular faith. In 2006 E. Davidson was appointed as a humanist hospital chaplain in Leicestershire. A really interesting interview can be found at:

The right to health is not only the right to the highest possible physical health but also mental health. Belief and well being can sometimes be strongly interlinked and it must be recognised that it is not only people with faith who need support in a hospital or care home setting, those without faith have many of the same needs. I read through the list on the wall, which is intended to give individuals an idea of instances in which they may like to talk to a chaplain. Apart from administering sacraments, all of the other instances could be addressed just as well by a atheist/humanist chaplain.

It is also important to remember that whilst human right and anti-discrimination legislation protect the  right of individuals to to hold religious beliefs, it also protects the right of indidividuals to other philosophical beliefs similar to a religion and the right to have no religion or belief. I believe that those who fall into the latter two categories should not be deprived, as they currently are, of access to an individual with whom they can discuss issues as those of faith would discuss with a Chaplain.

I'm just about to read an article I have found in the Freethinker (2009) on this very topic....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Lord Justice Jackson: Legal Aid

Lord Justice Jackson has said recently that Legal Aid should remain for clinical negligence.

See article:

BBC Radio Shropshire: Disability

Yesterday, BBC Radio Shropshire (Jim Hawkins' Programme) gave air time to an individual who held extremely prejudiced and discriminatory views towards disabled people. Of course, freedom of expression is crucial to a democratic society, but some forms of extreme expression, particularly that which  incites intolerance between groups should, I think, be curtailed.

It saddens me that a reputable station could encourage this type of (what I consider to be totally unacceptable) participation, especially given the recent case of the horrific torture and murder of Gemma Hayter. Disabled people can be vulnerable and it is important that they have advocates who can fight for their rights to be protected. It did not seem to be appreciated yesterday that disability includes not only physically disabled but also anyone with, sensory impairment, learning disability or mental health problems, and thus the airing of such prejudice could cause great harm. What is more, the target audience of Radio Shropshire is specifically 50 years and older; a cohort which includes many vulnerable and disabled people.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Human Rights of Older Persons

Some good news...

"After a long time of neglect, there is an increasing awareness and recognition of the human rights of older persons within the international human rights community. Several stakeholders have issued a call for a ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons’. In a recent article in the Human Rights Law Review, entitled ‘The Human Rights of Older Persons: A Growing Challenge’, Frédéric Mégret does an excellent job assessing these developments. Mégret shows that the rights of older persons should be approached through a human rights framework and that this is an issue which human rights lawyers cannot afford to ignore any longer.

So far, the European Court of Human Rights has not exactly produced a rich case law on the human rights of older persons. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the European Convention and its Protocols are silent on the issue of rights for the elderly (in contrast to the European Social Charter (see article 23) and the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union (article 21 and 25)). However, this might be changing. There is definitely potential in the Court’s legal analysis to mainstream the rights of older persons. This blog post focuses on that potential through the lens of two cases that were handed down in July: Heinisch v. Germany and Georgel and Georgeta Stoicescu v. Romania." From:

The case of Heinisch v Germany  is terrifically important as it concerns an instance of whistleblowing (which has been discussed in a previous post) in a care home. The judgement states:
In societies with an ever growing part of their elderly population being subject to institutional care, and taking into account the particular vulnerability of the patients concerned, who often may not be in a position to draw attention to shortcomings in the care rendered on their own initiative, the dissemination of information about the quality or deficiencies of such care is of vital importance with a view to preventing abuse.” (par 71)

This is important because it not only draws attention to the fact that elderly patients may be vulnerable but also recognises that they may not (for various reasons) be at liberty to make a complaint themselves.

For a much fuller discussion please see:

Haiti: Healthcare

A new Human Rights Watch Report has been released this week. It focuses on the inadequate healthcare care for women and girls in particular, in Haiti.

More than a year after Haiti's devastating earthquake, women and girls are still facing gaps in access to healthcare needed to stop preventable maternal and infant deaths, the report says.

It calls for the government to do more when it comes to protecting women and girls from violence, and ensure that they receive all the information they need. "Attention to human rights should be an essential part of Haiti's recovery plan," Roth said.

Read more: