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June - July 2008

Political News

From Far & Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi

Is RC Church right to play politics with faith?

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church used his Easter Sunday service to blast the British PM Gordon Brown over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now going through the parliament that would allow cross fertilization to create animal-human hybrid.

Many in the Church hierarchy and indeed in other faiths are ill at ease with such experiments that may one day fall in the wrong hands and create “Frankenstein or even Mermaids” that no humans can control.

Humans, even scientists are driven by greed and morbid interest, especially in this day and age. Multinationals are a law in themselves, bigger and more powerful than most countries in Africa, South America and Asia. Would they be able to resist the creation of a perfect human being, a perfect male and female robot for social, domestic and sexual pleasure?

If any one is naïve enough to believe that this creation would be for scientific purpose only, for laboratory research to eliminate human sufferings and genetic diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson and bone cancer must be living in a dream world that has nothing to do with reality. Every invention that began with noble intention to serve humanity, has ultimately ended up as a weapon of war, whether it is biological or nuclear technology.

In a way Cardinal O’Brien speaks for all of us. But he may be creating a dangerous precedent by involving his faith as a weapon to fight the government, imploring Catholic Members of Parliament, especially the Ministers to resign rather than support the Premier Brown. How would he feel if a legislation that is beneficial to his flocks is torpedoed by Protestant MPs on the urge of the Archbishop of Canterbury?

I am sure a bill will come in the Parliament that may offend the sensitivity of other religious minorities, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. But being in such a tiny minority, they will not be able to oppose such a bill on religious ground.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien should be appealing to all the members of the Parliament, irrespective of their religious affiliation, to oppose the bill on moral, ethical and even scientific ground, instead of targeting prominent Catholic Members like Paul Murphy, Ruth Kelly, Des Brown, Geraldine Smith and many more who happen to be catholic.

Of course Cardinal O’Brien has the right, indeed the duty to bring up the subject while preaching from the pulpit, delivering a sermon, addressing his congregation. The subject matter, the embryo research should be no different than the Iraq war, binge drinking, teenage pregnancy and anti-social behaviour that have become endemic in the inner city communities.

The human-animal crossbreed, an ultimate hybrid is capable of producing a creature of Frankenstein monstrosity if the technology falls in the wrong hands. This should be the guiding principle to allow all MPs a free vote, to vote according to their belief, conscience and knowledge without introducing religious pressure or doctrine.

Scientists argue that if the research is successful, it will alleviate human suffering, give back dignity and improve the quality of life beyond reorganization. There is no doubt that scientists are right but it does not necessarily need crossbreed research which may, at least in theory, be dangerous and may spill out of control that may lead to another HIV, Aids type of epidemic, which many believe is the result of failed experiment while creating a biological warfare weapon.

Is Gujarat heading for another earthquake?

Satellite technology is so advanced that the eye in the sky is capable of detecting not only the tiniest object on earth but also deep inside the earth crust and the ocean floor.

It was the satellite imagery that discovered, unearthed the existence, the remains of the world’s oldest bridge ever built on the ocean, linking two countries, the Rama Satubandh, the Lanka Bridge or what the West would like to call Adam’s Bridge, built perhaps more than thirty thousand years ago. Considering the limitation of the technology at the time, it is equivalent to putting a man on Mars.

Perhaps the technology in those times might have been even more advanced than we have today. That is the impression one would get reading the Hindu epic Mahabharat, a collection of some ten thousand verses.

Now the same satellite imagery has discovered the worrying movement, the shifting of the layer of earth deep down in the Rann of Kutch. (Kutch desert) The satellite has spotted a shallow island with an area of some 100 square kilometres emerging from the sea, near the India Pakistan border, in the North West of the tiny settlement of Ber Mota, in the shallow waters of the mouth of the Indus basin area.

The emerging of this shallow island or rather the elevation of the sea bed has been in progress since 2004 but the process has been speeded up in the last year. The recent series of mild earthquakes measuring up to 3:7 on the Recter Scale has added fear to the already worrying situation that prevails among the scientist community of Gujarat, at the Institute of Seismology that is keeping an eye, observing every tiny movement under the Rann of Kutch.

It has come to light that such underground movement was observed by the satellite imagery in the year 2000 which led to the devastating earthquake of 2001 with the loss of some 25,000 lives and the destruction of vast infrastructure that included roads, rails, small dams, draining of lakes and ponds, schools, hospitals and thousands of buildings that made some half a million people homeless. This was the most devastating earthquake that India has suffered during the last fifty years.

The reconstruction has just been completed, homeless resettled and hundreds of thousands of homes rebuilt, NRIs playing a significant part through SEWA International, SHM, ISKCON and many such organizations and charities.

The Kutch fault line is the most active in the whole of South East Asia with the notable exception of Indonesia which periodically suffers earthquakes of such magnitude. But fortunately most earthquakes occur deep down the ocean floor that occasionally gives rise to a Tsunami. Mostly Tsunamis, a destructive force worse than earthquakes fizzle out while at sea but if it reaches the shores before losing its strength, it creates havoc, loss of life and property on a very large scale.

The province of Kutch has experienced more than seventy such earthquakes between 1820 and 1956 where four such fault lines are active, always on the move, albeit a few centimetres at a time, until it collides and releases the energy, the upheaval that destroys every thing in its sphere.

The fault lines extend to the towns of Bhavnagar and Junagadh at the foot of the famous Mount Girnar that may have risen out of such turmoil millions of years ago.

The dynamic Chief Minister of Gujarat is not sitting idle, leaving it to fate. The Gujarat government has installed Geo Position System (GPS) which is a kind of an early warning system that charts and reports all types of unusual underground activities, giving some time for the people to move out of their homes and high rise buildings. This is in theory but reality is so often completely different.

Unfortunately all scientists can do is to give an early warning that may save lives but not the destruction of properties and infrastructure. The Government is eager to cover every inch of the land near the fault line, with modern, up to date GPS.

No matter how advance the science may be, it is difficult, if not impossible to second guess the nature, to play God. Some fault lines lie so deep that no GPS can monitor it effectively. But let us hope that one day the human ingenuity will not only predict earthquakes accurately but conquer earthquakes and stop the destruction and loss of human lives.

Is it right to silence NHS critics?

A Conservative peer, Lord Mancroft created a storm in a tea cup when he attacked grubby NHS nurses, narrating his own unsavoury experience when he was treated for gastroenteritis, as he told his story to a Daily Mail reporter.

His party leader David Cameron came down on him like a ton of bricks, stating that it is unacceptable for Lord Mancroft to criticise NHS staffs in such a manner. Cameron is more worried about public opinion, his poll rating, as NHS staffs are held in such a high esteem. But is he objective?

Why should truth be suppressed for political convenience? With binge drinking, drug taking, teenage pregnancies and crime wave affecting our society, it should be obvious to every one that such low moral standard and lack of work ethics will affect the intake of every profession and why should NHS be an exception? NHS is no longer an institute that would churn out Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale who were married to their profession!

Mr. Cameron should ask the chronically sick, the disable and the old and infirm patients who use NHS on a regular basis about their experiences in NHS hospitals. After ten years of constant rise in NHS spending, surely it is not too much to expect a much better, vastly improved service under NHS, in line with France and Germany where health care is second to none.

As a chronically sick person who uses NHS on a regular basis, I can say without hesitation that the standard of care has slipped a long way down, although by far the vast majority of NHS workers are kind and caring. But it needs just one rotten apple to bring down the caring image of our beloved NHS and there are many such rotten apples throughout the NHS.

My recent experience is the typical example of how and why NHS gets such a bad press. I fell in my home while going up the staircase. I hurt my ribs and was having a bad pain, I thought I might have cracked my ribs or had pneumothorax.

We have always been told by our GPs that under such circumstances, we should call an ambulance. I did, and the ambulance was at my door within five minutes. I was given all the care and attention by the paramedic before we reached the nearby A & E department.

Within half an hour I was assessed by a clinical nurse and seen by a doctor within three hours who sent me for chest x-rays and blood test. All the staffs working in the A & E Department were wonderful.

By the time all the results were in, I was in the hospital for seven hours and totally exhausted. The young lady doctor who was treating me came to me at 10pm and told me that she has some good news and bad news as well.

I did not have cracked ribs or pneumothorax, although my ribs were badly bruised. But it will heal in time without leaving any mark. But the bad news was that my blood test showed a high level of enzyme which normally indicates that a patient is having a heart attack.

It is possible that my heart may have been damaged in the fall but it could also be the shock that might have raised the level of enzymes. She knew from my record that I had a very bad experience in the hospital, that I was reluctant to get admitted but she could not let me go home, as I would have to take another blood test at 3am and hopefully it would be normal and I could be discharged next morning. Despite all the delays, I could not have received a better treatment, even in a private hospital!

As I was totally exhausted, she put me in a trolley bed until one was available in the Assessment Ward. I got the bed at midnight but I didn’t sleep a wink as it was a very busy night and I was transferred three times during the night. But all the night staffs were wonderful, going out of their ways to help us, giving me tea and biscuits all the time, as we had missed the dinner.

Next day, at 10am I was seen by a consultant who seemed a bit annoyed, that I was occupying a bed. He told me sharply that there was nothing wrong with my heart. When I told him that I never thought there was any thing wrong with my heart, that I was advised to stay the night, he was not pleased.

I could see that the junior doctors who treated me during the night with friendly disposition, care and kindness and now in attendance with the consultant were in awe at his presence.

After half an hour, the Registrar came to tell me that I am being discharged but he was too busy to sign the papers; that I would have to go and sit in the lounge for some four hours before he could see me.

As I was totally exhausted, finding it difficult even to stand up, it was impossible for me to spend such a long time, just to get the discharge papers. When I had to visit the washroom, two bulky nursing auxiliary staffs prevented me from getting into the bed. They were more like night club bouncers than hospital staffs. I was unceremoniously dumped, kicked out of the ward!

The waiting room was full of patients, some of whom have been waiting for hours, some sitting on the floor, as all chairs were occupied. Fortunately for me, two nursing staffs who had finished their shift and going home, helped me to cover the long distance from the ward to the entrance where I was picked up by my wife. Even a wheelchair was out of bound for us!

While I received a wonderful service for 90% of the time I spent in the hospital, especially in the A & E department, the attitude of the Consultant, the Registrar and some of the auxiliary staffs was extremely rude and unhelpful. They forgot that we were sick, old and fragile patients who needed care and attention, not bullying. It seems the binge drinking youngsters who throng the A & E Department on Friday and Saturday nights receive better treatment than the OAPs.

Every where in the hospital, I saw the stickers on the wall “This hospital has ZERO tolerance policy.” Presumably it does not apply to their bullying staffs.

It is time for this government who has doubled the NHS expenditure, to give the patients the right to complain. Every one who is discharged should be given a questionnaire form to fill in which may include the procedure to complain, preferably to an independent body.

I am sure my experience is not unique and I would like to hear from the readers of this prestigious and widely read publication to share their experiences with us, the readers and the MPs who read the paper to respond.

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