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Cheers - AE

Monday, 23 February 2009

Jade Goody - thought provoking

I have to declare an interest here. Actually more like a lack of interest and a complete inability to understand what the hell it is that Jade Goody has said or done, aside from going on a shithouse reality TV show and displaying an extremely broad lack of knowledge, that's made her a celebrity. Nope, haven't really got a lot of time for her, though I certainly wouldn't have wished her a massively premature, yet also painful and lingering, death from cancer. On top of that I find distasteful the way the tabloid and celeb mags are doing the vulture routine round the poor woman, though it's no surprise and I suppose there's an argument that they wouldn't if people didn't keep buying them, so fuck it, why not? Yeah, sure, plenty of people die young, many from cancer, and they don't get all this media attention and the money that goes with it. That's life, luck and the free market for you, and I certainly don't blame Jade Goody for milking the last money she can out of it when it's pretty clear that she's about to die and leave two young children behind. Nor am I going to comment about the "brave Jade" line some tabloids are taking. I have no clue if she's being brave or not, but it's the same any way. Personally I expect she's scared shitless and very angry, and to be told at 27 that you're not going to see 28 who wouldn't be scared shitless and very angry? Again, don't blame her in the slightest but sadly she's not the first or last to be in this situation.

In fact I wasn't going to blog about Jade Goody at all. Yes, it's all very sad for her but like I said, she's done square root of bugger all to deserve her celebrity. Notoriety perhaps, but not celebrity. So I really hadn't given things a great deal of thought beyond the obvious - whatever her faults she sure as hell doesn't deserve this. But then I saw this piece in the Telegraph on the right to die. The point of the article is slightly tangential in that it discusses things from the state's point of view and how there is going to be a temptation to save a few quid for the Health Service and tell terminal patients that they can't have any treatment apart from the state approved lethal overdose when the time comes. "When the right to die becomes a duty to die" is the headline, and since it gives a couple of examples where this has actually happened I can see some merit in the argument. However, all it really says to me is that the state can't be trusted to act in the best interests of patients and should stay the fuck out of medicine. But with the Jade Goody story so much in the headlines that it's just impossible to avoid it the article did prompt a train of thought. I'm no mind reader but I imagine that right now Jade Goody will want to hang on to life for as long as she possibly can, which again would be pretty much the same as anyone else. But there may well come a time when she changes her mind, when the suffering is too much to bear but her body is betraying her and prolonging the suffering, and she'll begin to wish for death. Medical science has already failed her, and if she reaches that point then by denying her that one last treatment option society will have failed her as well, right? The examples of treatments other than assisted suicide mentioned in the Telegraph article also represent a similar failure but on the flip side of the same coin. However, two wrongs never made a right and I don't see that we gain anything by arbitrarily choosing one over another, especially when I suspect the main reason for doing so is a cultural religious hangover that's strong enough to stick even to quite secular societies. Bottom line - it has to be up to the individual concerned and personally I find it just as repugnant to deny the opportunity for a relatively painless exit as it is to make it the only option.

Before I finish it's occurred to me that it might seem like I'm using the unfortunate Jade Goody to argue for the right to die and that by doing so I'm a sick bastard to use someone else's misery to justify my opinions. Not so, mainly because I hadn't given it a lot of thought except that if it was me I'd want to be stoned off my face until a non-lethal dose of the drugs didn't work anymore, and then I'd want it all to end. Right away, no messing. Oh, and the fact that if it's supposed to be my body I damn well ought to have the absolute say in when and if and how I get someone to switch it off for me. As I said, I hadn't really thought about the possibility that the state might save money on terminal cases by offering no treatment apart from the big metaphorical door marked EXIT. Where Jade Goody comes into the whole thing is that her situation plus the Telegraph piece got me thinking a bit further about it, and that's all. Now say the NHS did have a drug that wouldn't cure her but might give her maybe one last Christmas, but that she couldn't have it because she's a basically a hopeless case and could only have a lethal overdose at the point at which the pain becomes too much. That's basically the argument in the Telegraph, and I agree. That thought hadn't occurred to me. Should have given how hard up the NHS is, or at least how relatively hard up it is as far as practising any fucking medicine and the way it forces arbitrary decisions as to who gets what. Terry Pratchett's treatment for Alzheimer's is a case in point - according to the NHS he's too young to have his sort of Alzheimer's so they won't pay for the drug that he needs. Not a huge problem for millionaire authors who can buy it themselves even though they've paid for their share of the NHS through their taxes (and Sir Terry will have paid a fucking heap of taxes on all those book sales), but it's a bugger for the rest. They've had to pay their share of tax and NI too, and since it's going to have left the majority them with a proportionately much smaller pot to piss in arguably they've paid more than those wealthy enough to afford private treatment. The decision is made for them, and if taxes and the cost of living have left too little over to pay for private treatment they're stuck with it. Shitty shitty shitty way to treat other human beings. It's the arbitrariness of it - who gets this treatment, who's old enough to have this Alzheimer's drug and, if doctor assisted suicide ever becomes legal in Britain, who is still offered normal life extending treatment and who is simply offered the needle because there's no treatment in sight. Jade Goody is not actually dead yet and while there may not be much hope there's still just a tiny spark of left while she's alive. A new drug might appear in a couple of months which would buy her enough extra time to still be alive for another new drug, which in turn buys her enough time for another and so on. Highly unlikely, yes, but even I hope it happens and I don't actually like her. If she wants to cling on to life and to that tiny hope then no-one, least of all politicians or NHS administration pricks, should deny her. As I said before, I find the idea morally repugnant and I'm glad it can't possibly happen as things stand in the UK at the moment. But equally repugnant is forcing someone to exist in pain if they don't want to any more, and that's something society has yet to get to grips with.
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