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Friday 1 June 2012
Letters: Doctors' greed matches bankers
Aneurin Bevan, disgusted by the attitude of doctors, "vowed to stuff their mouths with gold". It was the only way to get the NHS set up and since then doctors have had their fair share of gold, as their working week has got shorter and their rewards longer.
In the 1950s I lived with a GP uncle. He had Thursday afternoons off and alternate weekends. It was a rare night that he was not called out. I last had a home visit in the early 1980s.
I suppose the average doctor's salary of £115,000 is to be endured, as Shaw remarked: "The doctor is a specially dangerous man when poor." But I find it difficult to equate with a secondary school teacher who may aspire to half that only if promoted to senior management, and I do hate the idea that most doctors would get a pension of over £60,000.
Doctors planning industrial action in defence of their current pension rights seems to me as greedy as bankers defending their bonuses.
T H C Noon
Would you like to be operated on by a 67-year-old surgeon at 3am? As a GP I already see lots of people in many different jobs struggling to make it to 60 or 65 in order to retire.
You will get people not actually capable of doing their job or adapting to the continuing changes staying on for their pensions. This can only be to the detriment of patient care.
Most healthcare professionals are not guided by self interest and often put their patients first, often to the detriment of their own family life.
Will anyone notice the day's withdrawal of labour when the doctors go on strike, or will they just shrug and say, "Well, it's just another weekend"? It is hard to know what those who voted for a strike hoped to achieve – certainly not public sympathy.
Why I confronted Blair at the Leveson hearing
Anyone could have walked into the Leveson inquiry last Monday. Finding the back stairs and entrance to the court was ridiculously easy and, yes, I could have been wearing exploding underpants. Perhaps I did the Courts of Justice a favour, highlighting inadequate security, but that was not what my polite demonstration was about.
At the time of the First World War, British people had little choice; they did as their "superiors" told them and died for "God, King and Country". Twenty years later we went to war again, this time through choice, to stop the evil that was Hitler and the Nazis. My father fought for this country and our family's freedom. He was in the Normandy landings. After that war the United Nations was established to stop the likes of Hitler ever again.
I believe the sacrifice made by the many for Britain has been criminally disgraced. According to The Lancet, half a million people lost their lives in the Iraq war. When I marched nervously into the judge's entrance to court 73 at the Leveson inquiry, I wanted to shine a spotlight on evil, this time perpetrated in our names by our own Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who cajoled us and tricked us into a war.
In 2010 I went to Iraq to make a documentary about what ordinary Iraqis had to say. I travelled from Baghdad to Halabjah and from Basra to Fallujah. Like many here, their view was that the war was about oil, not Saddam.
Martin Young (letter, 31 May) claims that the left hated Tony Blair, and preferred a "return to Thatcherite policies", because it preferred to see Labour as a party of opposition.
Utter nonsense, but typical of New Labour apologists. Quite apart from Iraq, the left hated Blair and New Labour precisely because they signified a continuation of Thatcherite policies: slavishly pro-big business and contemptuous of trade unions; maintaining disastrous "light touch" regulation of the banks; venerating the super-rich, and allowing the gap between rich and poor to widen; obsessed with extending markets and privatisation throughout education and the NHS; constantly denigrating professionals as selfish "producer interests" when they dared to point out the damaging consequences of constant public sector reform; perpetuating the cult of managerialism, so that public-sector staff were buried under paperwork – and then berated for being inefficient; introducing student fees; populist pandering to the Tory tabloids.
Blairism was largely Thatcherism with a cheesy grin. That is why the Left hated Blair.
Can we not die better than this?
Mike Joseph (letter, 21 May) argues that, faced with Alzheimer's or a similarly degenerative disease, there should be an option to allow a medically supervised suicide.
I know of an independent single lady who had to be moved out of her flat and into a care home because of Alzheimer's. Placed amongst people with dementia far more advanced than her own, she deteriorated rapidly because no one knew her story or had time to chat about people and events that had meaning for her. She was over 90 and her friends were old and able to visit only infrequently.
The first time I took her closest friend to visit, she recognised her after initial confusion and smiled and laughed as they talked of old times. Months later, it took much longer for her to realise her friend's presence, but she did and she was glad. She thanked us repeatedly for the flowers we'd brought. It was upsetting to realise that she was conscious of her situation, that she knew she was losing her faculties, and that she hated being surrounded by people slumped in their chairs, visibly demonstrating what she would become.
Our final visit found her slumped in her own chair in her own room. She had been refusing food for a fortnight and was very weak. She did recognise her friend but with visible anguish. She either could not or would not speak, but her eyes filled with tears, despair and humiliation at her friend seeing her thus reduced. After a further week of refusing food, she died.
This is a scenario which is bound to become more common. We are able now to prolong life irrespective of its quality. Care homes do their best to look after their inmates' physical needs, but have neither the time nor the individual knowledge to alleviate the mental suffering of an isolated, mentally deteriorating individual.
What do we as a society think about this? Many seem bound to end up in institutionalised care. We don't like to contemplate death, but it will come for us all. Having improved the physical care of the very old, is it not time to review their mental and spiritual care? And how a good death can be achieved?
Smart aid makes a real difference
Ian Birrell appears more obsessed with Bob Geldof than Geldof is with aid ("Bob Geldof's obsession with aid hurt Africa. But now trade is healing the scars", 28 May). Trade is a key part of any vision for a strong and prosperous Africa. The Commission for Africa, on which Geldof served, insisted as early as 2005 that Africa will "fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals, unless it increases its diminishing share of world trade".
Birrell makes valid points about the risk of aid bureaucracy and of development that is not country-led. But his one-sided assessment not only ignores the difference that smart aid has made (it matters, for example, that UK aid has vaccinated 80 million children against life-threatening diseases), it also disregards the way aid can underpin trade and economic development.
It can create the conditions necessary for growth, such as a well-educated, healthy and well-fed workforce, together with vital infrastructure. It can also foster political stability by improving democracy and strengthening civil society.
Smart aid will help Africans create the opportunities to work their way out of poverty and towards a world without aid. That's a world we are working for.
Europe Director, ONE, London W1
Snipers on the Armenian border
Amid the hysteria generated by the Eurovision Song Contest, we should not overlook the aggressive attitude of Azerbaijan towards its neighbour Armenia.
Last week, while participating in a scientific collaboration with Armenian colleagues, I was in the north of Armenia and at various points very close to the border with Azerbaijan. In one village people came out of their houses to advise us not to drive further along the road as Azeri snipers were regularly shooting across the border. A number of people, peacefully working in their fields, and even schoolchildren had been shot dead. Such incidents are widespread.
The purpose of such killings can only be to provoke retaliation by Armenia, creating a "border incident" and enabling Azerbaijan to try to annexe yet another small mountainous enclave of Armenia.
This part of Armenia is ethnically Armenian and the inhabitants are Christian and speak Armenian. They would have no wish to be incorporated into Islamic Azerbaijan, where they would suffer persecution or worse. Let us hope that democratic choice and the rule of law will prevail.
Dr Adrian C Pont
Money that helps children
Your case for switching resources from child benefit to child care is premised on the argument that giving parents more money will not "necessarily help the child" (leading article, 30 May). Yet one of the messages of the Unicef research is that the additional financial support provided to families under Labour was effective in reducing deprivation among children.
Other research shows that typically parents spend such additional support in ways that benefit children. There is a strong case for investing more in child care, but not at the expense of direct financial support for children.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Labour), House of Lords
Thank you, Mary Dejevsky ("Native English is degenerating into a global dialect", 30 May). Those who delight in the wealth of English are now tongue-tied. The ubiquity of "Globish" has given schools reason to question time with Shakespeare. The averagely articulate person seems a pariah. That's why, at the Actors' Centre, we doggedly explore English poetry.
In "The therapist who tried to cure me of being gay" (24 May), Patrick Strudwick reports being advised to take up rugby to "cure" his homosexuality. As a recently married man in 1970, I played rugby for Cambridge City and "came out" as bisexual to the club, and friends. I don't remember it being much of a problem. So my advice to Lesley Pilkington is, yes, play rugby!
In your piece on the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge (29 May), you printed an aerial shot of bridge construction. That picture shows the Oakland-Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge opened to traffic six months before the Golden Gate Bridge.
A defendant in a court case was "banned from using the Tube while drunk for five years" ("Woman jailed for racist rant", 30 May). Everybody should be banned from using public transport while drunk, permanently.
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