Letter: Seeking redress from a hostile world

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Sir: Bryan Appleyard's poignant feature "Living dangerously in our dreams" (26 July) exposes an increasingly frequent hypocrisy in our lives: we want to take risks, but only if we can't lose. If we do lose, then we find someone else to blame. Most things in life involve risk, from giving birth to crossing a road to buying a car, and "risk" implies a chance of failure. Taking that risk means accepting that that chance.

There is a worrying trend in my own profession, medicine, in that some people expect 100 per cent perfection 100 per cent of the time. If things go wrong, it must be the doctor's fault. Operations, for example, all carry a degree of risk, however small. Major operations have a greater risk. It is important that these are explained to patients (part of "informed consent") and while doctors try their best to minimise these risks, occasionally a complication will occur for which no one is negligent.

It is distressing and upsetting for all when this happens and it can be comforting to find someone to point the finger of blame at. We find it difficult to accept that things don't always work out well.

There are no certainties in life. The possibility of harm is what produces the excitement and thrill of "dangerous" sports and roller-coaster rides. We should takeresponsibility for our actions, whether the result is good or bad.

While some lawyers exacerbate the situation by readily taking on compensation cases, sometimes under "no win, no fee" arrangements, it is the readiness of the public to seek damages that is the driving force. Perhaps it is a manifestation of an increasingly individualist society in which we feel insecure, needing protection from a hostile world in the form of legal redress.

Yours faithfully,

Saul Myerson


26 July