We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

That Which Shall Not Be Named

It waits. It hungers. In its tenebrous embrace all memories, all identities, all names are lost. What was once known becomes unknown.

And a jolly good thing too, that’s what I say.

The Scottish government’s creepy Named Person Scheme has been fed to Azathoth, the BBC reports.

An earlier post of mine called “Sixty pages” described one father’s experience of the pilot scheme:

The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.

Rob Fisher also wrote about it here: What the GIRFEC?

We have always been at war with Vapasia

India bans e-cigarettes as global vaping backlash grows

India has announced a ban on electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide about a technology promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.

[…]

“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters in the capital, New Delhi.

[…]

The government said it would advance tobacco control efforts and contribute to a reduction in tobacco usage. Punishments include up to a year in prison.

[…]

According to the World Health Organization, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, which are not covered by the new ban, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.

[…]

India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.

Keeping the poor from wealth and the sick from health

“Bulgarian authorities bust gang suspected of illegal organ trading”, reports the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Bulgarian law enforcement authorities have dismantled a four-member organized criminal group suspected of illegal human organs trading, an official said here on Friday.

Two of the gang members were arrested on Tuesday evening when they were trying to leave the country at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the border with Turkey, and the other two were detained later, Siyka Mileva, a spokesperson for the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, said at a press conference.

The evidence gathered so far indicates that the gang has been active since Feb. 2019, recruiting donors and recipients of kidneys, and transporting them to a clinic in Turkey where transplantations were performed, Mileva said.

All the criminals, donors and recipients are Bulgarian citizens, she said.

The recipients paid the gang between 50,000 euros and 100,000 euros (55,500 to 111,000 U.S. dollars) for a kidney, of which from 5,000 euros to 7,000 euros were paid to the donors, and the surgery cost between 20,000 euros and 25,000 euros, Mileva said.

The donors were of low social status, she added.

Thanks to the splendid work of the Bulgarian authorities their low social status will now be lower still, as in “criminal”. The people who needed the kidneys will have their status changed from “sick” to “sick and in jail”.

I first heard this story on the radio. Unfortunately I cannot remember which station I was listening to, but I do remember that the report specifically said that all the participants, including the would-be donors, were willing participants in the exchange of kidneys for money. Both sides were better off in their own judgement; the poor wealthier, the sick healthier. This evil had to be stopped.

Discussion point: compulsory vaccination

Stop return of measles by making MMR jab compulsory, say GPs.

The Guardian headline makes it sound as if all GPs (General Practitioners) have said this. In fact only four named doctors are quoted, and when one reads the article the “compulsory” of the headline is not fully justified, but I think most GPs would agree with the government moving from a “nudger” to a shover on this issue.

The MMR jab should be compulsory for children before they are allowed to start primary school to stop the resurgence of measles and mumps, leading GPs are demanding.

Schools should ask all parents to prove their four- or five-year-old has had their two recommended doses of the vaccine before they can attend, they say in a letter to ministers seen by the Guardian.

They want school entry procedures toughened so that the only exceptions made to the new rule would be for children whose parents have registered a conscientious objection to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine or those whose health means they cannot have it.

The four London GPs, who include a former government adviser on health policy, have urged the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to embrace the proposed change in policy.

Many a libertarian shuffles their feet when questions of herd immunity come up. The ghost of Typhoid Mary laughs. What do you think?

If it saves just one life…

We have to do it, right? Politico reports,

Some U.K. lawmakers think they’ve found a way to reduce British smoking deaths: Brexit.

Large numbers of British cigarette smokers will switch to vaping once the U.K. leaves the bloc, they argue, if looser British tobacco laws replace tighter EU limits on nicotine advertising and packaging.

Ultra-processed food

The BBC reports that ultra-processed food has been linked by scientific studies to early death.

Then come “ultra-processed foods”, which have been through more substantial industrial processing and often have long ingredient lists on the packet, including added preservatives, sweeteners or colour enhancers.

If a product contains more than five ingredients, it is probably ultra-processed, says Prof Maira Bes-Rastrollo, of the University of Navarra, citing a maxim.

This sounds quite vague. My problem with “processed food” as a concept, is that industrial processes involving food include things like mixing two ingredients together in a large vat. Surely if there is a problem it is to do with the content of the food. Something harmful is present, or something beneficial is missing. If so, tell me what that is, there is no need to be vague about it.

→ Continue reading: Ultra-processed food

This is not yesterday’s post about the NHS killing several hundred people

Today’s post about the NHS killing several hundred people is quite different from yesterday’s and should not be confused with it. They have nothing in common except both being about times when the NHS killed several hundred people.

The Guardian reports,

Fresh criminal inquiry launched over Gosport hospital deaths

Police have launched a fresh inquiry into how 450 patients died over 14 years after being given dangerously high doses of painkillers at an NHS hospital that showed “a disregard for human life”.

Relatives of the victims hope the investigation – the fourth into one of the biggest scandals in NHS history – will finally lead to criminal charges being brought against staff involved in administering the drugs unnecessarily.

An independent inquiry last year into events at Gosport War Memorial hospital in Hampshire found 456 patients had their lives shortened as a result of being given opioids without medical reason between 1987 and 2001. Their deaths are the focus of the new police investigation.

Another 200 people “probably” received excessive doses of painkillers at the hospital between 1989 and 2000, it added.

However the Guardian does not report a little detail that the Times does:

A hospital doctor faces a new police investigation into the deaths of 456 patients who were given “dangerous” levels of powerful painkillers.

Last year an official inquiry concluded that Jane Barton, who was known as Dr Opiate, headed an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing the drugs without medical justification at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

Patients considered a “nuisance” were allegedly given drugs on syringe drivers filled with opiates which killed them within days of their arrival at the hospital in Hampshire.

(An earlier post on Gosport can be found here: “If a nurse didn’t like you, you were a goner”.)

The cruelty of those who think themselves virtuous by definition

The error was bad enough…

Hospital infected teenager with HIV then kept diagnosis secret

An NHS hospital kept a teenager’s HIV diagnosis secret from him after accidentally infecting him with the virus and testing for it without his knowledge.

Martin Beard, now 50, wants answers from the Infected Blood Inquiry, which begins examining what has been called the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS” tomorrow. More than 2,400 NHS patients were killed and as many as 25,000 were infected by blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr Beard was among thousands of haemophiliacs treated with Factor VIII, hailed as a “miracle drug” to aid clotting. It emerged years later that almost all those treated were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or both.

The drug was made by “pooling” plasma from thousands of blood donors, including prisoners and drug addicts in the US who were paid. If even one donor was infected, the whole batch was contaminated.

Mr Beard, from Burton-on-Trent, was treated from infancy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), but transferred to North Staffordshire Hospital aged 17, where he first attended with his mother in September 1986. “We opened the doctor’s door,” Mr Beard said. “He didn’t even say ‘hello’ or ‘sit down’. His first words were, ‘I see you’re HIV positive.’ ”

…but in a way the attempt to conceal what they had done was more shocking.

The Times article by Kaya Burgess continues:

A year earlier Mr Beard had been treated at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The Times has seen a letter sent by a consultant in Leicester to a registrar at BCH [Birmingham Children’s Hospital]. Dated October 1985, 11 months before Mr Beard learnt of his illness, it states: “We note that he is HTLV 3 [HIV] antibody positive, but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes.”

Medical errors will always happen. Some “cures” that seem wonderful at first will always turn out to have long term side effects, or, as in this case, to be worse than the disease. We can try to minimize such things but we can never eradicate them because they arise from the nature of discovery. If we knew in advance what worked and what did not we would not need research, we would just apply the wonder treatment the angels had told us about.

But for doctors to conceal from the victim of their own mistake the terrible harm they had done, and for no better reason other than to cover themselves… words fail me. Although Mr Beard was eventually made aware of his condition in the most brutal fashion, apparently more because someone did not get the memo to keep it secret rather than from any desire for honesty, other haemophiliacs who were not told of their diagnosis unknowingly infected their sexual partners who went on to die.

Consider those words in the consultant’s letter “We note that he is HTLV 3 [HIV] antibody positive, but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes.” A senior doctor who had attained the exalted status of consultant could not possibly have been unaware of the potential dire consequences of hiding from this boy (as Mr Beard then was) the fact that he was HIV positive. Yet this consultant blithely promised to “make every effort” to comply with the wishes of his or her fellow doctors to perpetuate the conspiracy of silence, as if that were the honourable course of action.

Consider that the behaviour of that consultant was widely replicated throughout the NHS. It seemed normal. It was just what you did.

Like Top Gear but not funny

The Times reports,

Son travels 170 miles and beats ambulance to injured mother

In a race between a man travelling 170 miles by public transport and an ambulance starting ten minutes’ drive away, most people would have backed the ambulance.

Mark Clements assumed as much when he left his home in London to help his injured mother in Devon, but when he arrived after four hours she was still on the floor and the ambulance had not yet arrived.

Mr Clements caught a bus, the London Underground and two trains from London to Exmouth on Saturday after his mother fell and broke her hip. The first 999 call was made at 9am but paramedics did not arrive until seven hours later.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Look around any developed country and it is obvious that there are a lot of people who eat too much. But there is another affliction of modern societies that too often gets overlooked: the greed for attention. If members of the Lancet Commission on Obesity had a taste for food as great as their appetite for hyperbole, their bellies would prevent them getting near a dinner table.”

Ross Clark, Daily Telegraph, 29 January (£).

This new thing we have instead of respect for the elderly

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, says the Book of Leviticus, alongside other injunctions about such matters as how to sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar that even Leave voters might concede do not go so well on an inspirational poster.

For a while after the EU referendum result was announced there was a trend among some particularly enraged Remain voters to be about as willing to honour the face of one of those senile, bigoted, gammony, UKIP-voting coffin-dodgers as to bring a young bullock without blemish to the door of the tabernacle and kill it before the LORD. I lost count of the number of times I read young activists claiming that “their future had been stolen from them” and arguing that since the old had fewer years of life left their votes should not count.

This trend has now receded, either because it finally dawned on them that in the coming Brexitocalypse we will all be counted old at thirty or because the United Nations Independent Expert told them to can it.

That must have hurt. The United Nations telling them, who had thought themselves free from blemish, that though they wist it not, yet are they ist. Yeah verily, they are guilty of an ism, and shall bear their iniquity.

And now everyone’s at it. Out: “We should ban old people from voting”. In: “Age is a protected characteristic”.

The UK is “completely and institutionally ageist”, according to the chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK.

Prof Martin Green, also the chair of the International Longevity Centre, said ageism in the UK was “a national scandal” that should be challenged in the courts.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should, he added, “hang their heads in shame” over its failure to pursue as many ageism cases through the courts as other protected characteristics, such as racism or homophobia.

The people of the past thought that the old should be treated with respect because they could be presumed to have gained wisdom through experience. The only lens strong enough to let modern Britain see the elderly as worth being treated with respect is that “old age” has joined the official list of “protected characteristics”. Better than nothing, I suppose, but the image of how to treat old people as seen through the “anti-discrimination” lens is one that most of the old people I know would say is distorted. For instance Professor Green indignantly writes,

If you just flip the categories, you see how unacceptable ageism is. You hear those in the NHS say: ‘That person is too old for an operation’ but they’d never say they are ‘too black’ or ‘too gay’ for treatment.”

I have known many people who have had lifesaving operations in old age. Though I do not share in the national worship of the NHS, I am grateful that the skill of its doctors and surgeons has allowed friends and family of mine to enjoy more good years of life. But if you are going to have a taxpayer-funded health service, then, yes, at some point the NHS must say, as it does say, “That person is too old for an operation”. Eventually the law of diminishing returns cuts in. The amount that could conceivably be spent on medical treatment to give a very old person a few more months of life is almost infinite. Fine if they are paying from their own purse – though even then a time comes when a honest doctor would advise against further treatment – but not if they are competing for NHS resources against a three year old child needing an urgent operation.

Gene editing the germline

Today, it was announced that a Chinese research institution had edited the genomes of human embryos that had subsequently been implanted and led to healthy births.

By wondrous coincidence, Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy posted a great essay defending such gene editing only two weeks ago, and it makes good reading at this time.