Saturday 19 January 2008

Spineless Jobsworths 1: Humans 0

Let me tell you a story. I served 10 happy years in an urban parish that was, partly, the South’s answer to Coronation Street. Curly and Gwennie had a shop in Coldicutt Street at the end of King’s Road. Gwennie was a huge matriarchal character. At her funeral we needed two hearses and a lorry for the flowers alone. There was a slightly simple gentleman called Edwards. He used to live out on the allotments, largely under tarpaulins, take oil from the garages and burn it off. He was a slight man who rarely wore a shirt and everyone, not very politically correctly, called him Ghandi Edwards. Gwennie used to slip him the odd pie but one Christmas she found him wheezing all over the palce. Being the lady she was, she set off to find a doctor. Up the hill, behind a brass plate, lived a Harley Street specialist who, understandably, had other things to do on Christmas Eve. He explained this to Gwennie, and that the NHS system required Mr Edwards to consult his own doctor. She replied, unforgettably, “Look, I've got a sick man here. He hasn’t got a bloody doctor. I thought you were supposed to be a bloody doctor.” In those earlier and kinder times, Mr Edwards’ pleurisy was treated, and he recovered. Human Decency One: Jobsworth Nil.

BBC R4 (From our own Correspondent) carries a profoundly disturbing story by Will Ross about Ama Sumani. She’s a widow who came to the UK from Ghana as a student, flunked her exams, got a job so as not to sponge off everyone else, got a very nasty cancer. She was being treated in a Cardiff hospital. Her Visa having run out, the stamp on her passport as well as the credit card you understand, she was refused continuing treatment, deported, and dumped back, dying, on the streets of Accra, hundreds of miles from “home”. Paul Vallely asks where the Churches were. The Western Mail says, but comment by Archbishop Barry Morgan and others seems to have fallen on deaf political ears.
Some MP’s and officials are prepared to defend this decision. Apparently subhuman abusive behaviour is OK with them, as long as it's done by the book and to someone weaker than them to whom they don’t have to be politically beholden.
The Doctors are not so easily deceived. The Lancet’s response is clear:
To stop treating patients in the knowledge that they are being sent home to die is an unacceptable breach of the duties of any health professional. The UK has committed an atrocious barbarism. It is time for doctors' leaders to say so—forcefully and uncompromisingly.
Phew! The hippocratic oath does still apply then, however inconvenient that may be for gutless amoral bureaucrats and politicians.
  1. Yesterday morning at Morning Prayer we read Cain’s gutless amoral question — “am I my brother’s keeper?” In Genesis 42, Reuben fears God’s judgment because he ignored his brother’s cries for mercy. No fudge there. The way the British government has behaved towards this widow would have been thought disgusting and degrading in the Bronze Age. No amount of bluster, evasion or political rhetoric will mask this basic moral and historical fact, let alone vindicate Jesus’ good Samaritan principle we all pretend to admire — as long as someone else gets to be the Good Samaritan.
  2. George Orwell used to remind us that the face of evil is usually banal and bureaucratic. The holocaust was run, largely, by nice middle class people, by the book. Fascist politics gave them an over-ride mechanism for basic humanity. The Lancet’s point is a serious warning.
  3. People who override or evade basic principles of human decency degrade themselves.
Richard Hall carries the whole sad tale, with access to Christian responses, on his Connexions Blog. Even if you don’t usually sign petitions, sign here.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...