Friday, November 24, 2006


I flew (torture class, don't ask) with South African Airways from London Heathrow to Johannesburg this week. Flight was pretty much unexceptional, the food was digestable, the inflight entertainment was OK, the seat was ... well, I got what I paid for. Even the service was pretty good.

Having said that, however, I want to share this story with you. Udo talks to SAA steward. Explains he has a very bad headache and requests a painkiller. Here's the SAA steward's response. No kidding: 'The person in charge of the painkillers is currently asleep. I can't wake her, as there would be a big fight. You have to wait until she is awake.'

It goes without saying that I went without painkillers as the stewardess 'in charge' of them slept during the night flight.

Cheers to the professional training SAA's stewards and stewardesses receive... makes me wonder whether their pilots also go to sleep and must not be awoken in case their services are needed during the flight...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kuwait democracy

Bit of a joke really... but anyway... go to the Kuwait news agency's website, scroll down the links on the left-hand side of the monitor and click 'Democracy in Kuwait'. Q E D I would think. -

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Patents versus Patients

Oxfam has issued a report today suggesting that rich countries continue to undermine the Doha Declaration (a ministerial agreement of the World Trade Organisation). The agreement was supposed to ensure that poor people living in the developing world will be able to access essential drugs in an affordable and sustainable manner. Oxfam concludes: 'Trade rules remain a major barrier to accessing affordable versions of patented medicines (generic medicines). The prevalence of debilitating and life-threatening diseases in poor countries is growing, but medicines are simply not available.'

Monday, November 13, 2006

Church of England coming out in favour of letting die

As a follow-up to the post below. The medical specialist body of the Church of England supports the view that it may be acceptable under certain circumstances to allow severely disabled newborns to die. It seems the organisation is continuing to think that active euthanasia for such newborns is wrong, but passive euthanasia (with the same consequence but possibly longer agony on the newborns' part) is acceptable.
Here's a remarkable (by Church standards) quote from one of its bishops (ie reasonably senior management type personnel): 'There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved'.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Doctors' Society Asks to Consider Infantizide

Quite remarkable the news item in today's SUNDAY TIMES. The paper discovered a position statement (*pdf file!) the Royal Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology submitted in response to a consultation the Nuffield Council on Bioethics started some time ago. Nothing unusual about this, you might say. Well, the unusual, in fact, the unusually brave, thing about the society's statement is that it asks us to consider whether or not under certain circumstances active euthanasia of very severely disabled newborns is something that we should permit physicians to do. Here's the crucial part from the statement: "We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns." The ethical rationale, as proposed time and again by moral philosophers such as Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and others is that it can be in the best interest of such newborns to get actively killed (in a painless manner that is not causing any distress to these newborns), instead of being kept alive to live a short life of a very low quality.
Quite interesting that this statement was overshadowed by a truly less important event, namely the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, the former ruling dictator of Iraq. To my mind the importance of a mainstream medical association suggesting that we ought to have a discussion about the question of whether active euthanasia for some severely disabled newborns might not the way to go, cannot be overestimated.
Let's hope this discussion will ever take place and changes will be implemented. It seems difficult to accept a status quo in which quality of life is subordinate to mere existence (at whatever cost in terms of life quality. Not all lives are worth living. It seems the Royal Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has come to realise this.

Friday, November 03, 2006

El dia de muertos

The German National Ethics Council will be abolished, long live the German Ethics Council. The old National Ethics Council was an institution essentially stacked with government appointees (much like the various incarnations of its US equivalent). It is proposed that the new German Ethics Council be stacked jointly with appointees by the government and the parliament.
Some have argued that there is a danger that democracy is eventually being replaced by expertocracy. The thing is, though, that the main problem with both outfits is that government has any role at all in appointing its members. Equally, it seems a misconception of the role and function of such advisory bodies that they could ever replace democratic decision making. The buck stops with the elected representatives of the people, and not with some eggheads, appointed by government or government and parliament.It's as simple as that.