Sunday, 15 February 2009

Death on Wheels

On Friday I had another startling insight into the bats-in-the-belfry mentality of local voluntary groups.
The insight came from an unlikely source.
I sit on an ethics committee charged with formulating hospital policy in the event of pandemic flu. It’s unusual in my experience of government advisory committees, in that it’s formed by dedicated professionals who seek only to do what is best for the public. There are no chancers from pseudo-charities seeking grants, no stooges of other government committees to force pre-arranged agendas, and no civil servants pushing us towards the rubber-stamping of government apathy.
We discuss scenarios put to us by health professionals as a means to set ethical policies. These deal with the most appalling moral decisions they may have to take in an emergency.
It is frightening stuff, and some of it gives me nightmares for days afterwards. But I am impressed by the dispassionate yet considerate way in which my colleagues listen carefully, comment frankly, and do their level best to reach conclusions which could help doctors, nurses and administrators take life or death decisions.
Then sometimes there’s a lighter moment. For example a colleague who told us about a curious request at a sub-committee to co-ordinate health and voluntary workers in emergencies.
For some peculiar reason, and against all prior evidence, the government (like other parties to the plans who are yet to look at actual evidence) is obsessed with the idea that the public will riot in emergencies and mob rule will prevail. Perhaps this might explain why one of the local twin set and pearls brigade wanted to know, in all seriousness, if meals on wheels drivers could be armed in emergencies.
I have this surreal vision of a meals on wheels van careering through, say, Onchan, at top speed. Wing-Commander Cholmondely-Barking, DFC and bar, sits white-knuckled at the wheel, cornering on two wheels, while in a roof gun-turret Mrs Constantine Effingham-Smyth, OBE, blazes away with both barrels at a horde of zombie chavs.
Only in the Isle of Man could someone at a government consultation group hold such whacked out views about the majority population. More worrying, only in the Isle of Man could they be taken seriously by politicians.

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