Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Death and Syria

Until yesterday the acme of success in my clipped and limited life was to get a letter published in the Guardian. This I achieved last week for about the fifth time, a modest record compared with the likes of Keith Flett et al, but satisfying all the same.However, a friend who reads The Weekly (The best of the British and Foreign media) showed my yesterday that my letter was reproduced there on their "Pick of the week's correspondence" page. Fame indeed. What joy.

As the Guardian's editing had, in my view, lost some of the letter's punch, I produce it in full here. It followed a leader entitled "The lost art of dying" published on Ash Wednesday.

Some years ago I was a lay representative on the Ethics Committee of our local hospital. We dealt mainly with applications from drug companies for permission to carry out research. In the voluminous literature accompanying the applications were frequent references as to what to do in the case of an SAE. Timidly I asked what stamped addressed envelopes had to do with it. It doesn't mean that, I was told. It means a "Severe Adverse Event." And what exactly, I asked, was a severe Adverse event? Well, the medics replied rather shiftily, it usually means the patent dies.

So if any of your readers are worried about death (The lost art of dying, 22 February) they can come to the old West Riding and have an SAE instead

I was pleased to get in the bit about the West Riding. Why do our politicians think, from Windscale onwards, that changing names is the solution to problems?

The Week's lead letter was reproduced from The Times, so was not something I should normally come across. The letter was from a Sir Andrew Green who was ambassador to Syria from 1991 to 94. He warns that "The breast beating over Syria by liberal interventionists shows a shocking disregard for the consequences of the sheer folly they urge upon us." He points out that hints of international assistance have already lead thousands of Syrians into sever danger and the "calls to arm the opposition can do no more than accelerate the slide into civil war - the outcome that Syrians most fear." He concludes that though "I hold brief for the regime, we have no means of replacing it with something better."

Western politicians, particularly British ones and not least William Hague, enjoy strutting about on the world stage, pretending to punch above our weight and telling other people what to do. The SAEs in Syria in the past weeks are far too numerous and tragic to be the subject humour. Politicians should adopt the doctors' oath and "first do no harm." In my book that includes not selling arms to the governments of repressive states.


  1. I must say, I was delighted to find the blog article packed an equal punch to the letter reproduced. Two hits in such a short space of time!

  2. Welcome back Chris. Under what bushel have you been hiding your light all this time?

  3. See email - alas I've been otherwise distracted but I shall be playing catch-up with your more recent blog offerings :)