Thursday, 24 November 2011

Liverpool Care Pathway – A Bradburian Nightmare

Fahrenheit 451

So, this is the 21st Century. It is not at all how I envisaged the world of the 21st Century might be.
Fifty years ago, science-fantasy writer, Ray Bradbury, wrote a futuristic tale of a world in which firemen are called out, not to attend to and extinguish fires, but to start them.

Fifty years on, we are but one step from paramedics rushing to the scene of an accident, not burning with an altruistic fire ablaze in their stomachs to make a difference and save a life, but actually permitting a victim to die (or even assisting in the process?) in order to facilitate a DNR directive in the ‘Living Will’ End of Life Plan which will be made available to them via the National Database of patient medical
records. This,
despite scares regarding erroneous information being kept on patient’s records; in which case, if the wrong details were accessed, or had been incorrectly inputted onto the system, the victim would not be revived. The victim would be a victim, indeed, of circumstance, the system and of common sense!

Fifty years on, we are, perhaps, just two steps from police crisis negotiators rushing to the scene of an attempting suicide and, not ‘talking them down’, but ‘pushing them off’ - persuading them, not to falter, but to jump! This, not literally, perhaps, but metaphorically, in order that their right to die might not be infringed but respected and complied with in line with a new ‘right to die’ assisted suicide law.

That is not so bizarre as it may sound. A ‘Death with Dignity’ Act might require this, to give encouragement, support and, perhaps, even aid in this endeavour. Who else will be permitted the ‘right to die’ under such legislation, only those who are about to die, or those also who are finding life unbearable, not through physical pain but through mental anguish? 

Police crisis negotiators in Washington State - where Initiative 1000, the Washington "Death with Dignity Act" has been passed into law, a law that is almost identical to Oregon's assisted-suicide law – have been advised by social workers mindful of this legislation about being able to assist people in killing themselves. In keeping with making accessible all options now available in the state, a brochure from Compassion & Choices (C & C), the assisted-suicide advocacy group (formerly called the Hemlock Society) has also been distributed. Such paradoxical incongruities fall neatly within the scope of this Bradburian context.

In Bradbury’s envisaged world, suicide is not an uncommon event, also. And fifty years on, there is a final note of irony: our books are e-books and they are called kindles. Is that, perhaps, with which to kindle the flames?

All this; so strangely fitting and in step with Bradbury’s dark vision of fire-setting firemen it is that Mr. Bradbury must be wearing a wry smile as he looks down upon us from that great library in the sky.

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