Baby Charlotte, Best teachers and others

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Baby Charlotte should not suffer for the sake of her parents

Baby Charlotte should not suffer for the sake of her parents

Sir: Dr Kyvelie Papas (Letters, 5 October) offers a moving case that baby Charlotte should receive further resuscitation but I believe he bases his argument on a mistaken premise, namely that the doctors' only argument for not resuscitating if a further arrest occurs is that the pain she suffers is intolerable. Although Dr Papas may be correct that adequate pain relief is possible, the accounts given suggest that this would require doses so strong as to render her unconscious and, more significantly, depress her already weak respiratory effort, thus hastening her death.

The reports in The Independent strongly suggest that the real motivation of Charlotte's doctors is to observe the fundamental medical principle of "primum non nocere" - first do no harm. A number of experts have stated that "further resuscitation would only damage further her brain and other organs". They indicate that she constantly gasps for breath despite being in an oxygen box and that this would be made worse by any further resuscitation efforts. As I understand the reports of the case, no one is proposing to withdraw existing treatment or to take any action which would hasten Charlotte's release from her world of pain; they are seeking the court's approval not to wilfully prolong that pain.

We are talking here about a baby who is scarcely able to breathe, and whose doctors believe she is in constant pain, and will never see, hear, speak or talk and has an expected survival of less than a year. However deeply we empathize with her parents, Charlotte should not be made to endure the unendurable for anyone else's sake.

Kettering, Northamptonshire

All pupils can profit from the best teachers

Sir: I was saddened by the comments of Martin Stephen, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, reported in your article "Best teachers 'should not take classes of less able' " (5 October). I took early retirement 10 years ago, having a PhD in biochemistry and 30 years' experience in industrial research, and studied for my post-graduate certificate in education with a view to passing on knowledge to a younger generation.

I think that my qualifications easily trumped the 2.1 degree mentioned by Mr Stephen as defining a highly qualified teacher, but I did part of my teaching practice in a Kent girls' school populated by 11- plus failures. When I left, one of the cards from the girls read "Thank you for making science so interesting for the first time." I treasured that comment, which may be relevant to the issue.

Sittingbourne, Kent

Sir: Some of the best teachers I know, and I only realised after they taught me, had an excellent teaching manner and ability to convey information which encourages you to learn. Yet they coped with the large differences between the most able pupils and the less able pupils even in the "top group".

The best teachers (not necessarily the ones with the most qualifications) should continue to teach "less able students", as they have the most chance of improving their understanding of a subject. We cannot expect every child to improve to A-grade standard, but we can at least give them a chance by exposing them to the best asset a school can have, a good teacher.

I am aged 21 and studying law thanks to a teacher who had passion and drive and no degree.

Edgware, Middlesex

Sir: It is an obvious, but nevertheless misleading, error to label teachers working with pupils who will achieve high exam grades as the "best".

Some of the most outstanding teachers I know work in primary schools with pupils who may struggle to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy. They may achieve more, relatively, with disadvantaged pupils than those who work exclusively with pupils who expect to succeed.

Arguably such teachers deserve financial recognition for the work they do, as was the case with the special allowances given in the Seventies. This may be seen as divisive by some teacher unions, but it would go some way to enabling the best (that subjective term again) teachers to work in the more challenging, and less well resourced , environments.


Obstacle to Kyoto

Sir: You are right to say that the long-awaited decision by Russia to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change is of enormous significance (1 October).

Since the European Union and its member states ratified back in 2002, we have been working tirelessly to persuade the Russians, holders of the second largest majority vote, to move forward. But one major obstacle to worldwide action to tackle climate change remains - whether that obstacle becomes a permanent one is in the hands of American voters.

The US is responsible for well over a quarter of the world's emissions and one look at the record of the Bush administration shows that things have not got better. Under Clinton and Gore there was progress but Bush has made clear that as long as he is in office, the US will never ratify Kyoto, scapegoating India and China in preference to tackling his friends in "big energy" and "big industry".

The European Union will continue to lead the way in addressing climate change - we know it is only the first step - the question is whether the US will widen its self-proclaimed role as the world's policeman to include policing the future of our global environment.

Spokesperson, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Brussels

Sir: Aidan Harrison (Letters, 1 October) criticises Hamish McRae's statement in his article (29 September) that "as coal was displaced by oil so oil will be replaced by something else". Mr Harrison's pessimism and lack of faith in human ingenuity amaze me.

There are many possible energy sources to explore, one favourite being nuclear fusion, and no doubt many others of which we are not yet aware. Who a century ago could have comprehended the internet? Given the will and the determination of our political leaders to provide the incentives, scientists and engineers could soon develop safe and cheap new sources.

Nuclear energy must provide the continuity between oil and the new sources. It is already widely and safely used in most developed countries. As the price of oil increases nuclear energy will become increasingly cheaper. It is infinitely easier and safer to transport. I agree with Mr Harrison when he asks how much longer our politicians will think they can hide from the problem.

Great Bookham, Surrey

Sir: As one of the "nimbys" mentioned by Tommy Beavitt (Letters, 28 September), I would confidently state that he could fill the country blade to blade with wind turbines and make but a negligible difference to the "future well-being of our children and grandchildren".

Power generation accounts for some 20 per cent of the UK's pollution. If the Government's 10 per cent target of clean energy is met, this will achieve only 2 per cent of our overall emission, which is minuscule in world terms. The remaining 98 per cent is what we should be concerned about, not erecting wind turbines as an exercise in window dressing, producing scenic blight and the pollution of their creation.

Yes, Tony Blair is speaking the truth this time about an extremely serious problem, but fine words are not enough. Will he take action, for example, on the tax-free fuelled sky vehicles which form one of the planet's worst polluters?

Kippen, Stirling

Sir: Jeremy Warner's Outlook "Taxing aviation fuel" (30 September) is right to recommend the European emissions trading route.

However, I must point out that all air travellers in the UK are already taxed far more than the carbon cost of their journey through air passenger duty.

They pay between £5 and £40 per departure and not one penny of the over £800m raised each year by the Exchequer is used to improve environmental performance. This ineffective approach to covering environmental costs must be replaced by one which would encourage fuel efficiency in aviation and greener technology in other sectors. An open emissions trading scheme fits that bill.

Secretary General, British Air Transport Association, London SW1

Relying on America

Sir: John Burnett (Letters, 1 October) notes that the US presidential elections seem to inspire more comment than the European elections; and ascribes this to a lack of "emotional and intellectual ties with Europe". Isn't it due rather to the fact that the former (in which we do not have a vote) will affect our lives to a far greater extent than the latter (in which we do)?

Unless Blair finds the guts to say "No" - don't hold your breath - a Republican victory would mean that British troops will be fighting and dying in Bush's next "pre-emptive" war; that international law will be further eroded; that the accelerating degradation of the global environment will continue unchecked.

Blair's unconditional support for Bush has won him no "influence" in Washington whatsoever. We'll just have to hope that America votes for an end to the madness of the Bush era.

Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Football finances

Sir: Your leader "Football is a business and it is time we got used to it" (5 October) must have been written by one of the Premiership triumvirate for whom money is no object and everything is going swimmingly. But outside this little elite triangle (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U) things are not so rosy.

Many, if not most, clubs are in financial difficulties. When famous old teams like Leeds Utd and West Ham Utd are struggling financially something is clearly amiss. Football in England is now dividing up into the super-rich teams who will win everything in sight, the also-rans who are just getting by and the majority of have-nots staring into the financial abyss.

Overseas players now make up two thirds of the Premiership. OK in one sense, but what happens to the nurturing of indigenous talent if clubs prefer to outsource? The cricketing authorities correctly impose tight restrictions on overseas players present in English countyside precisely for this reason. Remember that the world cup winning team of 1966 was composed entirely of home-grown, one-club players (Ray Wilson excepted).

Finally, do we really want members of the Russian oligarchy in control of famous footballing institutions like Chelsea?

Far from enriching the game, money is actually destroying it. The gangrene of insolvency may have started at the toe, but it will eventually reach the heart.

Carshalton, Surrey

Responsible business

Sir: Johann Hari's article (1 October) is rightly critical of the inconsistencies of "corporate social responsibility" (CSR). However, Mr Hari seems to be stuck in sensationalism when he comes to illustrate his arguments with examples. By implying that the arms industry looks like Amnesty International in comparison with other sectors such as the oil industry he does a great disservice not just to Amnesty International, but also all those working within and outside business to achieve greater commitment to human rights.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline issue, for example, is not as straightforward as suggested; powerful human rights arguments have been advanced both by Amnesty International and by BP and the disclosure of the Host Government Agreement will hopefully ensure greater safeguards not just for the building of this pipeline but also others around the world.

Mr Hari would have done well to explore the potential of the business and human rights debate as a more promising alternative to mainstream CSR. Human rights as universally accepted social standards perhaps hold the key to differentiating between PR-laden CSR and progressive corporate responsibility.

TwentyFifty Ltd
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Slow death

Sir: The Conservative Party is undergoing a "slow, strange death" (4 October)? This is a completely natural and doubtlessly anticipated outcome of the Labour Party's deliberate policy of outflanking the Conservatives from the right.


Right to a family

Sir: I thank John Baker, chair of Families Need Fathers, for his letter (5 October). Children need all the love and care that is available to them. The "family justice system" in practice is not working in the best interests of our children. It is, in many cases, resulting in children being cut off from perfectly fit, loving parents, extended family members and close-carers. Reforms must be implemented urgently. Every child has "a right of access" to the love and care of the people who love them.

London W11

Clapped out

Sir: Ellie Levenson (5 October) on hand-clapping recalls a derisive Old Testament variety. Job is seeking to maintain his integrity while the "east wind" of his misfortune claps its hands and hisses him off stage. At least today's party leaders get to reshuffle their comforters, though - poor old Job was stuck with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar for a full term.

Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire

Nut-free pea

Sir: Graham P Davis asks (letter, 5 October) "why no warning that peanut-butter sandwiches may contain nuts?" Simple - they don't. The peanut, being a legume, is a pea, not a nut.

Orpington, Kent