Hazel McHaffie

MRI scans

What would you say?

As I write, a blond haired, blue-eyed 12-year-old lies in a bed in the Royal London Hospital attached to assorted machines and tubes and drips. His name is Archie Battersbee. He was an active lad who loved martial arts and gymnastics, until, on 7 April this year, he was found unconscious in his home with a rope around his neck following what is thought to have been a freak accident.

After due observation and tests, doctors treating him decreed that his brain damage is so catastrophic that he’s probably brain-stem dead. They wanted to carry out the necessary tests to demonstrate this was the case, however, they were unable to do so for some reason – I have no firsthand access to accurate information, so can’t say which of the conflicting accounts in the media is actually correct.

But Archie’s parents do not agree with the doctors’ verdict: they believe their son’s heart is still beating and he is ‘still in there’. He must be given time for the spinal injury to heal.

Hmmm. What now? Someone must decide what’s in Archie’s own best interests. But who?

The case must go to court.

At the first hearing, in the High Court family division, the judge ruled that on the basis of MRI scans, the child was indeed dead, and she gave Barts Health NHS Trust permission to disconnect him from the ventilator.

However, Archie’s parents are having none of it. They are determined and they have a team of lawyers fighting for them too.  So the case goes for another hearing.

Three days ago, on Monday this week, the same  judge at a follow-up hearing granted the parents permission to mount a bid to overturn this ruling at the Court of Appeal. The family’s lawyers had made a good case for a decision of such gravity  requiring satisfaction ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ rather than being made on ‘the balance of probabilities’.

Archie lies unconscious and unaware of the headlines his case is making. He is unable to say what he personally wants.
The hospital staff have huge sympathy towards the parents, but their first concern and duty of care is for their patient, Archie himself. They believe his brain is irretrievably damaged and treatment should cease.
The parents believe they have an inalienable right to decide for their son; they love him as no-one else does. They want treatment to continue.
Public opinion is divided.

What would you say?

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Boosting brain power

What are you reading at the moment? Nothing trashy I hope! As if!

Pride and PrejudiceMaybe it’s a spot of Jane Austen, as this week we’re celebrating 200 years since she published Pride and Prejudice, surely one of the best loved classics of all time. And certainly a great favourite with me.

But hey, did you know that perusing classical writing such as Shakespeare, TS Eliot and Wordsworth (the unabridged genuine article, I mean, none of your noddy versions) can give your grey cells a rocket-boost? Research has shown it’s so. And remember … in these dark days of economic austerity, somebody somewhere forked out good money – lots of it – to fund this study. (No sniffing on the back row.) Anyway, academics at Liverpool University with yards of degrees used up-to-the-minute technology with MRI brain scanners to study this phenomenon, so who am I to argue? The beneficial effect apparently comes when the reader happens upon unusual words, surprising phrases or difficult sentence structures. Bits of the brain light up, and the brain shifts into a higher gear which primes the mind to attend more closely and encourages further reading and self-reflection.

Try reading one of the test passages from King Lear yourself:King Lear

‘A father and a gracious aged man: him have you madded.’  Did you light up?

Now substitute a modern word: ‘A father and a gracious aged man: him have you enraged’. Feel the difference?

Apparently the former is better for you. Roll on enlightenment, huh?

D’you reckon that’s why 7,000 copies of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey were left behind in Travelodges last year? Not enough brain-buzz?

Has anyone seen my copy of Notes upon some of the obscure Passages in Shakespeare’s Plays; with Remarks upon the Explanations and Amendments of the Commentators in the Editions of 1785, 1790, 1793? If you were the guilty party wot borrowed it, please return it forthwith.

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