Letters: I should not have to watch a loved one tortured

These letters appear in the 13 April edition of The Independent

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I groaned to see a letter from the director of a cancer charity (10 April) responding to the report on the failure of palliative care for patients with non-cancer diagnoses.

There are many sufferers of neurological conditions whose severe pain is not taken seriously or is poorly managed, but how seldom does one hear anyone standing up for them.

Cancer is common – I have had it myself. Spinal cord and nerve problems are less so, but they get a tiny fraction of the resources devoted to cancer.

My husband had a spinal cord injury 12 years ago which was not treated as urgent. This nearly paralysed him and left him with intractable leg pain; for this he needs heavy medication which has a variety of damaging side effects. Who is there to advocate for or look after him? Just his elderly wife.

A year ago after a spinal fracture, left untreated by the NHS, fresh symptoms arose with a variety of  types of new and agonising pain. Medication and injections were relatively ineffective; he needs 24-hour attention for the resulting disabilities.

New problems arise month after month. I find it is rather like watching someone being tortured to death. I have sympathy for cancer patients, but what about some attention to palliative care for all the others?

Name and address supplied


Rennie Grove Hospice Care fully recognises the issues raised by new research published by Marie Curie which highlights inequities in care for terminally ill people. This research includes a survey of 500 clinical professionals about standards and quality of palliative care and also research from the London School of Economics and Political Science on inequalities in access to palliative care.

Rennie Grove Hospice Care was an early innovator in providing community Hospice at Home services for patients and their families, and over the course of 30 years has developed an excellent model of care which is well respected nationally. Other models of community care have evolved elsewhere enabling patients to die at home in a dignified and fully supported way, but nowhere near sufficient resources are available to provide this basic right for all. 

Comprehensive quality care for everyone at the end of life remains patchy at best, even though an important focus of Government policy in recent years has encouraged care for more patients in the community rather than in hospitals. 

Rennie Grove Hospice Care provides care for patients in North-west Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire and offers a 24/7 responsive visiting Hospice at Home service ensuring that patients and their families receive the care and support they need to stay at home at the end of life if that is their choice.

A range of day services is available to support patients and families at Grove House, St Albans, where we care for a high percentage of life-limited patients who have conditions other than cancer.

New research reports remind us there is much to learn when evaluating approaches to care provision. With an ageing population with complex health needs, we need to free up capacity through more imaginative use of resources so that we can all help to provide a more equitable service for those at the end of life.

Jennifer Provin
Chief Executive, Rennie Grove Hospice Care
Tring, Hertfordshire


Cuba will be victim of ‘business as usual’

Yep, let’s “Break out the cigars” (Editorial, 11 April) – “Capitalism will, if managed astutely, lift Cuba’s people and its international status.”  If that is so, perhaps you’d better tell the people of Bolivia or Ecuador or Honduras or Colombia. Or any other Latin American country.

Tell them that capitalism will cure all their woes – take them to a land of milk and honey, where, over many decades, America has deliberately brought about coups and used all manner of underhand tactics to install capitalism: to line the pockets of rapacious corporate activity, to pave the way for McDonald’s etc, to set up client states beholden to American interests, to extract minerals and leave the host country bankrupt. This, presumably, is the future fate of Cuba.

So, “steered in the right direction”, Cuba can join the club – a club where exploitation is a natural theme of things. Where global capitalism can devour another so-called rogue state and bring it within the remit of “free enterprise”.

Peter Popham (World View, 11 April) had it right. “Business is booming” and that is the problem. Because that is what it is all about. Business – and Obama leaving office with a gold star. 

Ray J Howes
Weymouth, Dorset


Teachers are role models of despair

It was interesting to read the views of heads from the private sector on the subject of building pupils’ characters (letters, 11 April).

Unfortunately, my own experience in a bog-standard comprehensive has shown me that little  of value can be learned in this way.

It’s hard to imagine what children could learn from the sight of their sheep-like teachers as they are driven from target to target, bleating piteously while the management and Ofsted dogs nip and snarl.

In Animal School teachers can only provide models of demoralisation, desperation and bewildered exhaustion as they are rounded up to go over the top for the next Five-Minute Plan. Are these the character traits children are supposed to be aiming to develop?

Martin Murray
London SW2


I read the article by Hilary Wilce (“Lessons for life”, 9 April) and the subsequent correspondence. I have no doubt that many will regard the following as religious drivel, but I believe a  faith in the Christian  God and his precepts will furnish all the character-building we all need – young and old.

William Barclay wrote: “The great characteristic of Christianity is that it is an ethical religion. It demands from a man not only the keeping of certain ritual laws but the living of a  good life.”

The teaching of religious education can be criticised on many accounts, but  I am convinced that a Christian ethos in a school will begin to solve many problems.

Alec Hall
Garlinge, Kent


We are so indebted to the Tories...

We have relished the joy of being bound in the Big Society, presided over by the greenest government ever.

And the disadvantaged have been enfranchised by cuts to welfare which, George Osborne promises, will be even more brutal after the election, because we’re all in this together – and who would gainsay that?

Now David Cameron presents himself as the saviour of the NHS. Abraham Lincoln cartwheels in his grave.

Michael Rosenthal
Upper Brailes, Warwickshire


The Tories are trying to paint Ed Miliband as a ruthless, back-stabbing villain when for the first four years of this Government they were busy portraying him as weak and ineffectual. They can’t have it both ways.  

Do they not realise that we, the public, are fully aware of the background manipulations of their spin masters? They demean the public discourse.

Angela Peyton
Beyton, Suffolk


David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague and Chris Grayling have all visited Torbay recently.

If they are looking for a second home in Devon for impending retirement, they could have saved their rail fares at the taxpayers’ expense. Asking their local association to email them a brochure may have been a better idea.

Paul Raybould
GMB Torbay Branch Secretary, Torquay


Stop these disgraceful races

Horse fatalities are so common that watching the Grand National races is like having a front-row seat at a bullring. Seedling is the latest horse to crash horribly and die at Aintree. Most people in Britain care about horses, but racing coverage glosses over the serious hardship for horses and concentrates on the silly hats.

The horses in this kind of race weigh at least 1,000lb, have legs that are supported by ankles as small as those of humans, and are forced to run at breakneck speeds around a course designed to be hazardous. How many more deaths will it take before we call time on this disgraceful demonstration of national senselessness?

Elisa Allen
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), London N1


Failing to get the prehistoric picture

The illustration accompanying the article “Sea change like today’s linked to biggest mass extinction of all” (10 April) on the impact of marine acidification on the Permo-Triassic extinction shows a scene of gambolling Jurassic dwellers – which were around some 70 million years later, but certainly not then.

Philip Stephenson