Monday, 7 March 2011

What are Hospitals For, Again?

Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton
A quick internet search for a decent definition of a hospital tells us that a hospital is...

'An institution that provides medical, surgical, or psychiatric care and treatment for the sick or the injured.'

Good! Thank God for that, because that is what I thought it was! My mental faculties are still in tact, though, doubtless, some would be at pains to disagree.

Unfortunately, the NHS struggles with this definition. It's a bit shall we say? Rigorous! We had always thought that the hospital was a place where sick people went to get well, to be treated by doctors and nurses. Sadly, as we all know, it is a part of life that some people go into hospital and do not recover. These are people who die because all medical efforts to preserve their life have failed. Some are very young, some are very old and some are somewhere in between.

Now, I hope I don't sound too patronising. It is just that there are some people in the NHS who need reminding of this basic definition. It is the presence of these people, working inside your local hospital, working in the NHS, that means that your local hospital can double up as an extermination camp, at any time, more or less depending on the prevailing attitudes of the day. In the new age of moral relativism, you see, nothing can be taken for granted and that includes the standard definition of a hospital.

So, if a hospital isn't for sick people, or sickly people, then what or who is it for? Meet Dr Daphne Austin. Here is one 'NHS official' who has a radically different vision of what a hospital is to that of, say, most patients and hopefully most doctors and nurses. Let's listen to what she has to say in defence of advocating the withdrawal of treatment for babies born prematurely, at 23 weeks...

'Dr Daphne Austin said that despite millions being spent on specialised treatments, very few of these children survive as their tiny bodies are too underdeveloped. She claimed keeping them alive is only ‘prolonging their agony’, and it would be better to invest the money in care for cancer sufferers or the disabled. Dr Austin, who advises local health trusts how to spend their budgets, said doctors were ‘doing more harm than good by resuscitating 23-weekers’ and that treatments have ‘very marginal benefit’.'

Her defence for this 'moral' position is, then, in a nutshell, 'They're not really worth it'. Now, anyone who has much experience of the NHS will tell you that this is the default position of the NHS for nearly all of its patients. It doesn't really matter too much who you are (though it doesn't seem to help if you are elderly or in the womb) the NHS routinely treats people and views people in this way. The damning NHS report into levels of patient care showed just how horrendous is the net outcome of this prevailing attitude of workers and, even more, perhaps, than the nurses, the 'officials' who are running the show.

Of course, the NHS will always stitch you up if you've had a fall, or a fight, and it will give you some drugs that will help you battle some nasty virus that you've probably caught in the hospital itself because the cleaners didn't think it was worth cleaning that area. That is just them doing their job. Many are there for the paycheck and they do what they get paid to do. But when it comes to you as an individual, many do not give a toss. The NHS, according to what I hear from people contains a high number of people who treat people as if they don't really have bodies, let alone souls.

The attitude of this NHS official, that treatments have ‘very marginal benefits' and that treatments 'only prolongue their agony' is evident across the NHS no matter what ward it is. To these people, washing and bathing someone who is very old and infirm is of 'marginal benefit'. Why bother washing someone who is bed-bound? I mean, they're only going to crap themselves or piss themselves tomorrow, aren't they? Might as well leave them in their piss and shit. Why bother resuscitating a baby of 23 weeks? I mean, the odds of him or her surviving aren't that high. I mean he or she might be disabled? Not really worth it is it? Quite why a sickly baby isn't worth treating, but a cancer patient is worth treating is never made quite clear but then little of this is logical. Why not just close down all hospitals and say, "Look, we're all going to die at some point so let's save a load of money and not bother treating anyone."

Fr Gerald Vann, writing in Awake in Heaven, cites Aldous Huxley, who once wrote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." As a Priest, Fr Vann, quotes Huxley in the context of the moral collapse of Western civilisation as a whole. The vision to which he refers is the Beatific Vision of God, the vision expressed by the Beatitudes, the vision that led some Saints to build hospitals for the sick, for example. What is more, you could say that the loss of this vision is as destructive upon the NHS as it is for Caritas, or CAFOD, or The Tablet or any organisation, be it Catholic or not.

The loss of this vision is evidenced in Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, Catholic charities, Catholic churches and perhaps even the Bishops Conference of England and Wales. In other words, any organisation that seeks to do good, that seeks to be a healing force in society is at risk of losing its vision. Once the vision is lost, then even a very basic vision, the vision of what a hospital is, then everything crumbles and disintegrates. Of course, we can all lose this vision, because we are flawed human beings, but then that is why we Catholics would say that is why prayer makes all the difference. Ultimately, that is probably what distinguishes those in the NHS who care about their patients, from those who believe that caring for their patients, whether they be 23 weeks old or 89 years old just 'isn't worth it'.

Of course, I don't know how much money per annum the NHS pays for abortion referrals, but I'd be surprised if the NHS spent less than £10 million a year on routinely doing, rather more proactively, what Dr Daphne Austin suggests should be the norm. Of course, abortion is a mother's (sorry, a woman's) choice even though a great many are coerced into it, either by the BPAS or baby-shy boyfriends. What choice, Dr Austin, does the mother of a 23-week-old baby get in the decision as to whether medical staff attempt to resuscitate her premature baby or not?

H/T Creative Minority Report


Maria said...

Laurence. The quotation
"Without a vision, the people perish" is from the Old Testament. Because laity knowledge of the OT is poor my local RC church has been giving lectures and very interesting they are. Suggest you edit it before someone starts whingeing.

Sixupman said...

Just look at the number of Catholic health related [mental, physical & social]institutions that have been abandoned by the hierarchies and passed on their responsibilities to the vagaries of The State. A disgrace!

A Catholic Comes Home said...

What I cant understand here is the difference between a full term baby born with severe difficulties,and one born at 23 wks.Every effort is made for the full term,or should be,why not for one born early?Cant understand her reasoning.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, abortion is a mother's (sorry, a woman's) choice..."

Very true. A woman who chooses abortion will always be a mother of a dead baby.

God bless, Laurence.

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic and someone who has spent her whole life working in the NHS. I take great exception to your article Laurence. You paint a very bleak picture of the system and its care givers.

Yes, there are times when the system fails and it breaks our hearts when we read the horrendous stories of the elderly left unfed in their own excrement. However, this is not the level of care across the board.
People like myself work very hard, long hours often in difficult conditions, to give the best care and quality of life we can to the patients. It is not always easy due to cut backs and management decisions. That is no excuse whatever the circumstances, we are there to look after those in our care, it is up to us as individuals to do the best we can.

You give the impression that if Dr's and Nurses are not Catholics they are more likely to have less respect for human life and in some cases commit murder.
My husband was a Doctor. He was a very fine caring man who had the greatest respect for his patients and for human life. He was not a Catholic, but neither did not go out every day and commit full scale euthanasia.

You take a comment made by Dr Daphne Austin and revel in, milking it for all its worth, as if you are the only one alive who cares about the unborn or considers human life to be precious. Your writing is at best irresponsible, at worst darn right dangerous.

Instead of sitting at your computer taking the moral high ground and feeding your own ego, it would be in your own interest to get off your backside and go out and do some voluntary work. See exactly what it's like. There must be groups in your area, the elderly, handicapped etc who would welcome another pair of hands. Then come back and write a properly balanced post.

The Bones said...

Everybody I talk to says the same thing about the NHS. "They don't treat you like you are a human being." You react as if I am the only one saying this when, in fact, everybody is saying this.

Of course there are people who care in the NHS, some religious, some not. However, to deny that neglect of patients is not institutional following the NHS report released in February is plain silly.

Caroline said...

An interesting bit about the Hippocratic Oath:

"Because of the similarity in sound, the ignorant may be forgiven for mistaking the word 'hypocritic' for Hippocratic. Ironically, the 'Hypocritic Oath' is what many disillusioned medical students have come to know the famous Hippocratic Oath as, since most of the modern versions have deviated so far away from the tenets of the original oath that they are barely recognisable. In a survey carried out in over 150 US and Canadian medical schools in 1993, it was found that only 14% of modern oaths forbid euthanasia, 8% prohibit abortion and 3% disallow sexual contact with patients. All of these were key points in the original oath. Interestingly - even in modern, enlightened times, up to 11% still swear by the names of ancient deities.

Perhaps the most drastic change to the Hippocratic Oath is this: it has degenerated over the ages from a solemn binding treaty where the physician takes full responsibility for his conduct to a meaningless formal adherence to tradition where doctors no longer have to worry about deities striking them down for malpractice (let alone being penalised for deviance from the oath)."


epsilon said...

Dr Daphne Austin doesn't believe in God. She's following her conscience on her concern for people who are suffering because the medical profession is experimenting with the creation of life, while expenditure on the sick and disabled is cut back. She seems to be a person of moral integrity, unlike many of us Catholics who sit by and ignore the immoral lack of integrity of many of our pastors while countless potential independent human beings are flushed out of sight, children are being sexualised, and the Faith of Our Fathers is being watered down to nothing more than social gatherings in praise of ourselves.

We need to pray for souls.

Mike said...

"Without a vision, the people perish"
Proverbs 29:18.

I'm whingeing Maria and have located the quotation for Laurence. Let's see if he has the humility to edit the post with the misquote! I'll be disappointed if he doesn't. Cheers and regards to your priest for educating his folk on the OT.

The Bones said...

I don't need to edit the post since in the comments I have been corrected.

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