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- Arts + Ents
Wednesday 14 March 2012
Letters: My gravely ill son had to starve himself to death
How well I understand the feelings of Tony Nicklinson and his family ("My right to choose when to die", 13 March). We were in the same situation last year.
My son had suffered from an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis for six years and decided that life held nothing more for him on the day that he found he could no longer move from his bed to his wheelchair. Situations like this are as hard, if not harder, for the close family as for the victims themselves and one of the reasons that my son wanted to die was to end the heartache, drudgery and frustration undergone by his wife as well as himself.
With enormous courage he starved himself to death, a situation which lasted for several weeks. The doctors and nurses did nothing to help him die and we all had to watch a difficult death after six difficult years.
I could not help contrasting this suffering with the quiet "putting to sleep" of my beloved and ill lurcher earlier last year. One is not allowed by law to put pets through the traumas and pain that this same law makes binding on people.
The sooner that this is changed, the better for everyone in a country which prides itself on being civilised.
If Tony Nicklinson's legal hearing doesn't go the way he hopes, then surely it is time for the politicians to act. Maybe the definition of murder should be changed. Our most basic laws are designed to protect against acts which are perpetrated without consent. Stealing, assault and other acts are crimes precisely because of this.
Killing is such a final act that humanity takes it for granted that it is without consent, all the more so because the deceased is no longer able to give his or her side. But we can allow – in extreme cases and with extreme care – for consent to be taken beforehand. I would go so far as to say that consent should be given only with the judicial approval of the highest court in the land, and that when that consent was accepted, it would follow that anyone who killed the person concerned would not be charged with any crime.
Capital punishment is still widespread in our world. Whether or not you agree with this – for the record, I don't – the fact remains that ending someone's life with judicial approval does not constitute a crime. Any modern democracy which claims to have the welfare of its citizenry at heart should be able to formulate a law that allows – within extremely narrow guidelines – judicial killing with the consent of the person concerned.
Mr Nicklinson is a victim now, and will get justice only when the law allows someone to end his intolerable suffering.
A rare voice raised against the relic of monarchy
Of late, voices in support of republicanism have been few in the media, possibly because of the upcoming Diamond Jubilee. But Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (12 March) makes a sound case for the abolishing of the out-of-date, undemocratic relic that is the monarchy.
In future I would respect Prince Charles as head of state much more if he was President Windsor, with a genuine mandate to represent Britain. The notion that this family, the House of Windsor, has any more of a right to lead the nation than any other is absurd, let alone the substantial public sums that they receive and the substantial power that they still retain.
The monarch is above several elements of the law, which is an unacceptable loophole, open to all kinds of abuse by future, unknown royals. The law of any modern democracy should be clear, fair and unbiased.
It is the principle that is the issue here. Through no effort of their own, unelected royals automatically receive wealth, prestige and power and can retain it for the rest of their lives. This goes strongly against the spirit of meritocracy and hard work that this nation prides itself on.
As for the suggestion that tourists flock the nation because of the monarchy, do we really want to run Britain on the basis of what attracts tourists?
Jack H G Darrant
Prince Harry qualified for Sandhurst, became an efficient regimental officer and has an honourable active service record, marred only by the attentions of the reptiles of the press. He has now qualified to serve as aircrew on what I believe is a difficult helicopter, designed to be right at the sharp end – where he clearly hopes to be.
However much Yasmin Alibhai-Brown might despise these achievements, many of us would still be very proud if our own children made the same choices. She seems unable to empathise in any way with those who do not share her views about how our shared home ought to be.
R S Foster
Lib Dems help to privatise the NHS
As a former Liberal Democrat, I read John Kampfner's piece on Shirley Williams with great interest (12 March). Williams is the classic fence-sitter, and the perfect patsy for a ruthless leadership which planned, in secret, to trade the party for power.
The problem has always been that the Lib Dems are a composite. The Liberal wing could not accept that, and made its big play with the Orange Book, an agenda for their vision of the party. At a stroke the consensus was torn up, and the rest is history.
There is now a straight line running from Margaret Thatcher through to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. British politics has pursued the single-minded objective of marketisation of society, and Shirley Williams has played her part.
Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
Where, initially, Andrew Lansley's proposed NHS reform Bill was wrong because the structures it proposed were designed to facilitate back-door privatisation of the NHS, the modified Bill is also wrong, because it is one of the most badly drafted, over-complex and confused works of legislation ever put before Parliament, and that fact in itself will drastically increase the very bureaucracy Andrew Lansley pretends his Bill was created to reduce.
As to whether conniving in yet more broken promises might create a perception that Liberal Democrats are either trustworthy coalition partners, or a party that might one day even seem like a party of government, one wonders whether those who voted Conservative believing there would be "no top-down reorganisation of the NHS" will appreciate Lib Dems helping David Cameron break that promise, any more than those of us who voted Lib Dem appreciate Nick Clegg breaking his promises.
Whatever the answer, whether or not a party is fit to govern is a moot point unless it enjoys sufficient electoral support. Potential coalition partners have not failed to notice Lib Dem votes slipping below UKIP, and the Lib Dems won't remain viable coalition partners unless that trend is reversed.
Australian way to beat a drought
In 1893 gold was discovered at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Water was a major problem for both the mines and the population in this area of high temperature and low rainfall.
A temporary solution was to build wood-fired condensers using water from the local salt lakes. However, by 1903 a 600-kilometre pipeline had been built from a reservoir near the coast, rising 400 metres to Kalgoorlie and powered by eight steam-driven pumping stations. The pipeline is still in use today, delivering 40 million litres daily.
The distance is about that from Edinburgh to London, so reservoirs in the Southern Uplands of Scotland or the northern Pennines could be constructed to gather the necessary water to pipe it to the South-east and Midlands of England.
However, I cannot imagine that such a project would even have left the planning stage after 10 years were it to be considered in Britain today.
The current drought is prompting much debate about a water grid, desalination and rationing. How about using fleets of (cleaned-up) tankers to take water from sources in the North to ports in the South-east?
Those worried about the prospect of drought can relax. The cricket season is fast approaching and if 2011 is any guide the reservoirs will be brimming over by the end of June. As every cricket lover knows, it is a meteorological fact that it only rains in the summer.
The fuss about gay marriage
Thank you to Canon Timothy Kinahan for his comments on shrill voices raised against gay marriage (letter, 13 March). At last, a Christian who worships the same God as me. I know that there are many of us, but unfortunately it's the judgemental voices that get heard .
All this fuss about something that Jesus never mentioned, when all over the world children are dying of starvation, innocent men and women are being blown up by their own countrymen, and in the UK people are living out in the cold on the streets. Let's start working to right the terrible wrongs that mankind is inflicting on itself, and leave people to live the kind of life that they choose in private.
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
As a gay man I pay tax and National Insurance just like my heterosexual counterparts and as such I should have the same rights and opportunities as they have, including the right to marry. It's as simple as that.
Brighouse, West Yorkshire
On the beach
Can I claim the first sighting of the year in your paper today (13 March) of people sitting in the sun on Brighton beach? It is always pleasing to know that your photo-journalists go that extra mile to get us the best pictures. As we all know, there are no other beaches in our country worthy of a photograph. Or do your journalists all live in Brighton?
Dominic Lawson (13 March) says those representing Great Britain at the Olympics are pursuing intensely personal ambitions: "Team GB could be renamed Team BG and it would make no difference to almost all of those representing it." In fact, there is already a "Team BG": British Gas sponsors the GB swimming team, and last week's Olympics selection trials were the British Gas Swimming Championships.
Dr Alex May
Politics of disgust
Professor Hill (letter, 13 March) asks Michael Spencer why greed is better than envy. Both miss the point. There is little envy for the huge rewards demanded by bankers and others. The prevailing emotion is disgust, illustrated by frequent use of the description "obscene".
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