Posts Tagged ‘Hippocratic Oath’

Vox Political on IDS Replacement, Stephen Crabb

March 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece giving a few choice facts about the man now filling IDS’ seat in Cabinet, Stephen Crabb. He points out that Crabb has enthusiastically supported all of the benefit cuts, including the 30 per cent reduction in ESA. However, he begins by talking about Crabb’s enthusiasm for curing gay people.

No, he isn’t a mutant crab. That was a bad joke.

Not a joke is his apparent belief that people who are gay can be cured of it. He is on record as having taken interns from a charity called Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), and sponsored a ‘gay cure’ event run by the same organisation in 2012.

Perhaps he thinks serious illnesses and disabilities like cancer, Parkinson’s disease and amputated limbs can also be cured. Let’s face it, everyone carrying out Work Capability Assessments seems to have that belief, so he wouldn’t be alone.

While times have changed and there is far greater acceptance of gays and homosexuality than there was when I was growing up, it’s fair to say that many people still believe that it’s wrong and unnatural, even though it is found amongst other animals, not just humans. What I believe is incontestable is that the alleged cures do more harm than good. There have been a series of scandals amongst the various religious charities and groups in America, which claim to be able to cure gay men and women. A number of the leaders of these groups, who claim to be ‘ex-gay’, have been exposed as hypocrites, actively carrying on a gay lifestyle while claiming to have successfully left it behind. Some have also engaged in intimate bodily contact with the people they claim they are trying to cure, under the pretext that they are just trying to check to make sure that such same-sex contact doesn’t arouse them. I believe the head of one of these organizations, Exodus, even resigned and admitted that the cure didn’t work and he was still gay.

What is equally worrying is the immense psychological harm that can be done by these organisation to vulnerable young people. There’s a South Park episode in which one of the characters is mistakenly diagnosed as being bisexual, and packed off to a special treatment centre run by one of these organisations. One of the jokes in the episode is about the young people incarcerated in this institution keeping on committing suicide. South Park is known for its grotesque humour, which is often in flagrantly poor taste, but like much of the show’s contents it does make a perfectly valid point: there is indeed a danger of the young men and women sent to them trying to commit suicide. Private Eye in one of its columns a few years ago reported the case of a teenage girl, who was suffering from depression. This young woman was packed off to one of these institutions, which had been given permission to open over here by one of the local authorities. The girl had a history of suicide attempts, and there was considerable fear for her safety. The cornerstone of the old Hippocratic Oath that doctors had to swear was ‘First, do no harm’. If the supposed treatment entails making a vulnerable person feel so depressed that they are in danger of taking their own life, then it’s clear that the treatment violates that cornerstone of medical morality and should be discontinued. And you don’t necessarily have to believe that homosexuality is right to consider that inflicting people with needless pain and suffering is at all moral.

Crabb’s attitude to curing people of homosexuality is only one of his qualities that make him manifestly unfit for government. As a supporter of the government’s austerity programme he will no doubt carrying with their work of murdering and culling the disabled through their chequebook euthanasia. IDS was a disgrace, and it’s disgraceful – but expected – that he’s been succeeded by this man.

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Vox Political Admits Making Outrageous (and Entirely True) Claims about Ian Duncan Smith

February 11, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written a long piece openly admitting that he has made ‘outrageous’ claims about aIDS, and challenged the ‘Gentleman Ranker’ to prove that they’re untrue. The Tory MP currently in charge of killing the poor, the unemployed and the disabled is angry that certain people have been making the connection between his wretched welfare policies, and the mass deaths of people, who’ve been sent back to work despite being clearly unfit. His outburst whining about these critics was written in response to an inquiry by Labour’s Frank Field, asking about the numbers of deaths of people assessed as fit to work and the possible link to his policies.

This has been too much for aIDS’ delicate ego, and he written back trying to defend himself, and accusing some in the media of making ‘outrageous claims’. Mike, understandably, has taken that as a personal attack on him and his blog, as he has been one of those fighting to get the true statistics on the number of people, who’ve been killed by the Gentleman Ranker’s wretched welfare to work policy for years. And throughout those years Mike, and the others also requesting this information, have been turned down, stonewalled and frankly lied to. I’ve reblogged Mike’s pieces on it and commented on his progress here. Now Mike’s hit back at IDS’ own ‘outrageous claim’ that he’s killed no one with his policy, citing academic studies. And, as any good academic does, he also shows that he has a good understanding of the underlying scientific methodology regarding the collation and interpretation of such information. This is probably more than … Smith has. His academic credentials are entirely spurious. He claims to have received a degree from an Italian institution, which doesn’t actually issue them. And when previously challenged on his statistics, which were shown to be untrue, aIDS refused to accept the evidence. Despite it being shown otherwise, Smith stated that he ‘believed’ they were true. No proof, no evidence, just blind faith. It’s an attitude that would astonish theologians and philosophers, who have to deal with questions of proof, evidence and reason in their own disciplines. One feels that Wittgenstein and Popper, two of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, would have their work cut out trying to teach this man the basic principles of ‘epistemology’ – the theory of knowledge.

Mike’s article begins

Iain Duncan Smith can’t prove us wrong. He deliberately refuses to collect the statistics that would confirm his claims – or ours.

Instead, he has claimed that This Blog (and presumably others) has accused him of “outrageous action”, without providing a scrap of evidence against the allegation.

This Writer is delighted that the Gentleman Ranker has tried to defend himself. I am currently working on a book covering this subject and his words may provide an excellent introduction.

The man we like to call RTU (Return To Unit – a Forces description of someone who trained to be an officer but was a washout) was responding to a request for information from Frank Field, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee.

Mr Field had asked what data the DWP collects on the deaths of benefit claimants, in an attempt to find out whether there is any link between the work capability assessment (WCA) – carried out on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance and the Personal Independent Payment – and suicide, self-harm and mental ill-health.

The issue had been raised in research by Oxford University and Liverpool University entitled First Do No Harm.

This Blog reported on that document’s findings here – and you would be well-advised to refresh your memory of that article before you see the Secretary-in-a-State’s comments.

You should also read Vox Political‘s follow-up article in which a response from the Department for Work and Pensions – attempting to deny the research findings – is comprehensively disproved.

And there’s more. Much more. It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/11/yes-iain-duncan-smith-vox-political-has-accused-you-of-outrageous-action-prove-us-wrong/

As for the title of the Oxford University study, First Do No Harm – this is was part of Hippocratic Oath. You know, the oath that for centuries doctors had to swear, which prescribed correct professional medical conduct. And the first and most important of its provisions was that the physician should do no harm to his patient. It’s a principle of medical ethics that’s glaringly, painfully obvious when you think about it. But not to the aIDS or the Tories. It’s not as though this is particularly arcane academic knowledge either. It gets into Star Trek, in the Voyager series, where in one episode it’s repeated by the holographic doctor played by Robert Picardo. Somehow, I don’t think IDS watched that one. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn it anywhere else either. And certainly not at an Italian college or uni, which didn’t give him his fictional degree.

ATOS Assessors Now Asking Disabled People Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

December 6, 2014

Every now and then something occurs which makes me ask whether there is no depth too low for the Conservatives, anything so immoral or repulsive that they won’t do it. And the answer appears to be that there isn’t. Just when you think they can’t go any lower, they find a way to do something worse. And that applies equally to the various companies that have signed on to carry out the functions of the privatised state.

The latest revolting atrocity by ATOS is the question many of their assessors are putting to depressed claimants during their interview. Mike reports in his article Work capability assessor asked why depressed claimant had not committed suicide that

An ESA claimant has explained how an Atos work capability assessor asked her why she had not yet killed herself, after she admitted suffering with depression.

Abi Fallows described the interview on the I bet I can find a million people who DON’T want David Cameron as our PM Facebook group after reading Vox Political‘s article on the hidden cost of the Coalition Government’s benefits policy.

“At my last Atos ‘assessment’, when mentioning depression, the ‘assessor’ asked me why I hadn’t killed myself yet,” she told astonished members of the Facebook group.

She said the assessors’ attitude seemed to be that she couldn’t be depressed if she had not already killed herself: “I’ve noticed a few people, over the last year or so, going to Atos with depression are being asked that same question.

This is truly astonishing, and dangerously irresponsible. Apart from the obvious fact that many people have depression, who haven’t tried to commit suicide, there is always the very real danger that emotionally vulnerable people could be provoked into suicide because of that very question. Doctors have already reported a marked rise in the number of admissions for depression and anxiety, including to the level where the sufferer’s life is threatened, because of the stress of the ATOS assessment.

ATOS’ claim is that the assessments are performed by qualified medical professionals, who follow a rigorous procedure. This is rubbish. See Laurattelottiepearson’s comment for her experience in dealing with an ATOS assessor, who claimed to be a nurse, while having absolutely no knowledge of the condition for which Laura was assessed.

It also directly breaks the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors traditionally swore since Greek antiquity. One of the most vital and celebrated clauses in the Oath was the commandment, ‘First, do no harm’. The question itself threatens the health and wellbeing of the people, to whom it is asked, as it implies that they should have taken their lives. The commandment not to harm the patient was proudly quoted in several episodes of Star Trek Voyager by the holograph doctor played by Robert Picardo. Which shows that even fictional holograms have greater medical knowledge and ethical considerations than ATOS.

There’s a very sinister, Nazi ideology underlying the question. The Nazis were extreme Social Darwinists, who believed absolutely in the murder and sterilisation of those they considered to be racially or genetically unfit. This included ethnic groups such as Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, as well as the disabled. I’ve blogged myself about the way the Nazis implemented a programme of extermination by the SS group, T4, of the congenitally mentally and physically disabled. These policies, however, did not originate with the Nazis. Rather, the Nazis drew on the ideas of previous Social Darwinist movements, including legislation providing for the sterilisation of the disabled in America and many European states. The ultra-nationalistic movements that preceded the Nazis took the line that the ‘disgenic’, the genetically unfit, would voluntarily refrain from having children. I’ve got a feeling that some, however, seemed to believe that they voluntarily commit suicide.

So it’s a fair question whether the Tories are beginning an ideological progress towards encouraging the people they see as unfit to end their lives, in accordance with their Social Darwinist ideas, exactly like the Nazis’ predecessors.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/06/work-capability-assessor-asked-why-depressed-claimant-had-not-committed-suicide/. Go and read it.

Ancient Greek Medicine vs the Tory Privatisation of the NHS

November 12, 2014

As with so much of western culture, western medicine has its basis in that of ancient Greece. One of the greatest of the ancient Greek medical texts is the Hippocratic Corpus, the bulk of which were written sometime between 430 and 330 BC. The authors of these treatises were not only concerned with the physical, technical aspects of their profession – the structure of the human body, the nature of disease, and methods of healing. They were also concerned with moral status of the doctor and correct ethical practice. Until a few decades ago, doctors were bound by the Hippocratic oath, which amongst other things forbade them from practising surgery, performing abortions, administering poisons and using their position as a doctor for sexual exploitation. They were required to be chaste and religious, and to do no harm.

‘I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment; I will abstain by harming or wronging any man by it.’

Although there was no state provision of health care in the ancient world, and doctors charged fees for their services, nevertheless the Hippocratic authors condemned greed and stated that there should be occasions when the doctor should be required to treat patients for free. Furthermore, the doctor should not withhold treatment simply because he has not agreed a fee with the patient, nor to upset his patient by discussing the cost of treatment before treating him or her.

The Hippocratic Oath itself contains the pledge

I will pay the same respect to my master in the Science as to my parents and share my life with him and pay all my debts to him. I will regard his sons as my brothers and teach them the Science, if they desire to learn it, without fee or contract. I will had on precepts, lectures and all other learning to my sons, to those of my master and to those pupils duly apprenticed and sworn and to none other.

Thus there is the beginning of the notion that medical education should be free.

In his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of the Hippocratic writings, G.E.R. Lloyd writes

Several of the Hippocratic treatises that deal with questions of medical etiquette and ethics warn the doctor against avarice. Precepts (Ch.6) recommends that the doctor should consider the patients’ means in fixing fees and, as already noted, suggests that the doctor should be prepared, on occasion, to treat a patient for nothing. The same work also says (ch.4) that the doctor should not begin a consultation by discussing fees with his patient. This may well cause the patient anxiety, for he may believe that the doctor will abandon him if no agreement over fees is reached. As the writer puts it; ‘It is better to reproach patients you have saved than to extort money from those in danger of dying.’ Decorum (ch5), too, mentions lack of the love of money as one of the qualities a good doctor should show.

This contradicts the spirit of the Tory privatisation of the NHS, as this is very much driven by the greed of private contractors, a fair number of whom employ or are headed by Tory MPs, and their desire to exploit the sick for their own profit. Indeed, Private Eye ran a detailed article on the origins of Private Finance Initiative a little while ago, showing that it had its origins in a scheme by Peter Lilley under John Major to allow private industry access to income from the N.H.S.

Yesterday I posted a piece about Mike’s article, over at Vox Political, on Keith Willett’s suggestion at a conference by one of the private health contractors, Urgent UK, that the government should pay doctors to sign clients back to work early. Yet in the sections ‘Aphorisms’, the very first piece of advice in Chapter 1 is

Life is short, science is long; opportunity is elusive, experiment is dangerous, judgment is difficult. It is not enough for the physician to do what is necessary, but the patient and the attendants must do their part as well, and circumstances must be favourable.

This suggests, amongst other things, that regardless of the skill of the doctor, the healing process will take as long as it takes. It can’t be forced. Which clearly goes against Willett’s apparent view that with a bit more money, doctors could force people back to work earlier. Presumably before they had got properly well.

The Tories are, of course, trying to introduce the American system of private medical care, and so make it fee paying. As I said, medicine in ancient Greece was private, although some doctors were employed by a few of the ancient Greek city states, probably in order to keep them there, as well as receiving fees from their patients. However, the sheer greed behind the Tories’ reforms contradicts much of the ethical spirit behind ancient Greek medicine. They are not just dragging us back to the period before the foundation of the NHS, but even into the most rapacious aspects of medicine in the ancient world.

Source

G.E.R. Lloyd, ed., and J. Chadwick, W.N. Mann, I.M. Lonie and E.T. Withington, trans, Hippocratic Writings (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1973)

Observations on the Suicide of Jacqueline Harris

November 26, 2013

Like very many other people, I was saddened and angered to read Johnny Void’s and Tom Pride’s posts on the death of Jacqueline Harris. This lady took her own life after ATOS found her fit for work, despite her multiple disabilities and the great pain she suffered from them. This poor woman, like me, came from Bristol. I’ve also had a run-in with ATOS. Here are a few more of my observations and comments on the case. I intend to write a much deeper article attacking the pseudo-scientific nature of the ATOS assessment form later.

I don’t know if there are any other ATOS centres in Bristol, but there’s one at Flowers Hill in Brislington. This is a suburb of Bristol, which contains a mixture of light industrial buildings and former warehouses along with residential homes, and some of the most historic buildings in Bristol. It has Arnos Vale cemetery, dating from the 19th century. The funeral monuments there are impressive, with one of the most striking the tomb of Rajah Rammohan Roy, an Indian reformer and one of the founders of his country’s independence movement. He was married to the daughter of Bristol Unitarian minister, and preached in her father’s chapel. I believe there is an annual visit to his grave every year by members of the City’s Indian community. Other monuments include the Black Castle, an 18th century factory in the shape of a castle, made from black stone. There is also a 19th century mental hospital. Established by those guardians of peace and humanity, the Quakers, this was pioneering in its day for the humane treatment given to the inmates. It possessed extensive grounds and gardens for the patients’ enjoyment, as it was found that this greatly assisted their healing and recovery.

If I recall correctly, the ATOS offices are in a complex of buildings just down from a DIY centre and other stores. ATOS share the site with a complex of buildings, which include an NHS administration and a driving test centre.

When you go for an assessment, bring someone into the interview with you, or record it. It has been my experience that ATOS will lie and try and falsify your answers. You need to keep some kind of record of the interview, and that other person will remember or pick up on things that you may not notice or forget. Similarly, when going through the form it is very wise to photocopy it after you have filled it out, so you have a record of your answers there.

This poor woman’s suicide, along with so many others, raises the following points and questions.

Firstly, ATOS have tried to distance themselves from the tragedy. They state that they have no part in any decision on benefits. This is disingenuous. While the decision to end someone’s claim is taken by the DWP, rather than ATOS, ATOS clearly have the contract for the development and administration of their tests on the express knowledge that those, who fail it will lose their invalidity or disability entitlement. With this in mind, they cannot justly deny responsibility for the loss of benefits from those they judge fit to work.

In view of the number of people, who have committed suicide after ATOS declared them fit for work, it should be asked what training ATOS gives its personnel to deal with extremely distressed or suicidal interviewees. Johnny Void and the other left-wing bloggers have carried stories reporting that some Job Centres are training their staff to deal with such emergencies. I myself have seen a stack of cards for the Samaritans on the desk of one of the interview staff at the Job Centre Plus in Eagle House, St Stephen’s Street in Bristol. Are there similar items stocked by staff at ATOS? If not, why not?

Seventy-five per cent of ATOS decisions that someone is fit for work have been overturned on appeal. This suggests that either the ATOS assessors are criminally negligent when administering the tests, or that they are under pressure to falsify results to get a negative decision which will please their paymasters in the DWP. I said before that it has been my own experience that ATOS will lie in order to be able to turn down your claim. There have been revelations of secret quotas for benefit sanctions within the DWP and Job Centres, along with bonuses and gifts awarded to staff, who have the most number of claimants disallowed. Is there are a similar system operating within ATOS? What pressure are its staff under to declare someone fit for work? Are they also given financial incentives and gifts, like Easter Eggs, for so doing?

What policies and procedures does ATOS have to protect the vulnerable adults they interview? We have had reports of people with severe mobility problems forced to take their assessment in centres, which are some distance from where they or their lifts may park, or else on the upper floors of buildings. Does ATOS consider this acceptable? The ATOS form itself is heavily biased towards physical disability. It and its administrators therefore appear to have little experience or awareness of mental health issues. What procedures have been put in place to safeguard people with schizophrenia or disorders, like depression during the interview and afterwards? Shouldn’t their fitness for work or otherwise be assessed by a trained, objective psychiatrist or psychologist?

Johnny Void and the others have also reported that many of the employees administering the test are not doctors, but nursing staff. This is unacceptable. However, the medical qualifications of ATOS’ assessors are, in my experience, superfluous and irrelevant. They do not examine you themselves under their own initiative, but simply ask you the questions on the form. Presumably medical staff are employed in case a physical examination, such as to confirm some of the claims made by the interviewee, is necessary. Mostly I think it’s just to provide a pseudo-professional medical gloss to the proceedings.

The interviewing staff do at least have some medical qualifications. What are the medical qualifications of the decision-makers? Are they doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists? Or is that an entirely risible question, and they are really just another bunch of faceless bureaucrats? Again, from the procedure it seems that no proper medical experience is required or needed. All the decision makers do is go through the form, tot up the answers and then declare a person fit, even if that person is in a coma or possibly dead. This is no exaggeration. These things have happened. If the decision makers are medical personnel, have any of them expressed reservations or criticisms about the tests? Or resigned? What mechanisms are in place to assure that any criticisms or complaints they have about the test are passed on and accepted?

The ATOS assessment has also led to violations of British disability law, and contravenes the Hippocratic Oath. This was for centuries taken by British and European doctors. It has now been discarded, but is, I believe, still held in great respect by parts of the profession. At its heart is the stipulation that the doctor should ‘first do no harm’. Clearly this lies at the heart of all medical practice. If you can’t cure something, then for heaven’s sake don’t make it worse. But ATOS does make it worse. Clearly the individuals who have suffered heart attacks due to the stress of their assessment, or mentally ill people who’ve taken their own lives, have been made worse by the procedure. Private Eye a few years ago ran a story about one woman, who had already frequently attempted suicide. Tragically, she succeeded after ATOS told her she was fit for work, and no longer eligible for benefits. ATOS broke the law. According to the Eye, it is explicitly against the law to force the mentally ill to undergo such tests if this will exacerbate their condition. Has ATOS ever been prosecuted for one of these incidents? Were staff disciplined for such legal and medical negligence? What procedures were set in place to stop this ever occurring again?

Well, it seems to me that the answer is obviously none, but the question still needs to be asked.

Ordinary doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can be sued for malpractice. They have medical insurance to provide for this, and practice under the knowledge that they are responsible for the care of the patients and may be sued and convicted if they abuse or criminally neglect this sacred trust. The Coalition are considering passing legislation that will further criminalise and inflict severe penalties for negligent hospital staff. The question must be raised here of whether similar procedures are in place to discipline and try ATOS staff generally – the interviewers and decision makers – for similar negligence and malpractice in or through the administration of the test, quite apart from the horrific incidents mentioned above.

These are a few of the questions I feel still need to be answered. I believe strongly that the ATOS assessment form and process does not constitute proper, valid medical practice but a form of pseudo-medical bureaucratic quackery to provide a professional gloss to what is at heart an entirely bureaucratic procedure. Science is meant to be objective. According to Popper, the essence of science is falsification: the experimenter arranges his tests not to prove a theory, but to disprove it. If this occurs, new theories must be devised, and further experiments conducted. This is how science has progressed, and it has resulted in astounding advances in nearly all areas of endeavour, including biology and medicine. The ATOS test is the exact opposite of this. It has been devised and administered according to a narrowly and ideologically driven pre-conceived notion of what constitutes ‘fitness for work’, regardless of the personal needs and abilities of the individual to whom it is administered. It has been expressly designed to get as many people off benefit as possible according to the Neo-Liberal imperative of reducing government spending (but only on the poor). In this, it is strongly reminiscent of other pseudo-medical and pseudo-scientific fads, such as monkey glands, the removal of vestigial organs in order to make us more evolved, and the Stalinist ‘proletarian’ science of Lysenkoism. The only proper solution to this is to have ATOS shut down immediately, its wretched assessment permanently expunged from responsible, ethical medical practice. Oh yes, and the prosecution of Thierry Breton and his minions for culpable negligence and serious malpractice.

Blog of Interest: Atos Victims Group

July 15, 2013

I found this website through the links on Rainbowwarriorlizzie’s Human Rights and Political Blog – see the links at the side of this page. The Atos Victims Group contains news and comprehensive opposition to Atos bullying and victimisation of the disabled under the spurious argument that such cuts to their benefits will get them into work. I’ve also added them to the links bar. As I have mentioned before on this blog, Private Eye have run numerous stories on severely disabled people, who have been told that they are fit to work. These include the terminally ill, and individuals with severe physical and neurological conditions. My brother, Mike, has been trying to get the DWP to release the precise statistics of how many poor souls are committing suicide a week after Atos has removed their benefit. Others are trying to do the same, but the government rather petulantly refuses, on the grounds that this is ‘harassment’.

In one case, Atos’ victim was a woman suffering from severe depression. After she was told by Atos that she was no longer eligible, she attempted to take her life. Private Eye covered this story, and quoted the relevant legislation that should have stopped the incident from ever occurring. Under the provisions of one of the acts covering welfare assessments, these examinations may not occur if they would exacerbate the health of the person examined. Or as Hippocrates told his medical students way back in the 5th century BC, ‘First do no harm’. It was a maxim proudly quoted by the Holographic Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager back in the ’90s. This fact alone shows that Star Trek geeks probably have a better understanding of medical ethics than the benefit slashers in Atos. If that incident is true, then Atos broke the law.

It’s not only the disabled that Atos has bullied and led to commit suicide. According to the Eye, the head of Atos was at one time the chairman of France Telecom, in charge of its privatisation. Under his regime, about 30+ employees committed suicide due bullying by management. We do seem to be dealing here with a person almost completely devoid of any kind of human sympathy or morality. The Atos Victims Group is to be applauded for their campaign against such an amoral, predatory organisation.