Medical ethics

I recently read a blog post in Psychology Today, written by a psychiatrist who, as a young intern at what he only describes as a “Catholic institution” in the 1960s, was one of several involved in the care, if you can call it that, of a deformed newborn.

Let me describe the Cyclops child. It had a single fused eye in the middle of its forehead. The irises pointed to the sides. There seemed to be four lids surrounding the eye like a box. It was blind, of course. A large part of the brain and head were missing. There was no nose. On investigation, it turned out that the baby’s [o]esophagus and trachea had not separated, so that feeding the child was impossible. The food would go directly into the lungs. Also, the child had extra fingers. It did not look like a baby. It did not even look like a doll. It was unworldly. Alien. It was, someone said, “one of God’s little jokes.”

In a nutshell, the parents were told that their child had died at birth, yet the poor wretch lived for almost two weeks, without food or fluids, much to everyone’s surprise and, it seems, as you might expect, unease.

Now, I can imagine that this baby’s mother could well have recoiled in horror at the sight of what she had just given birth to and rejected her child, deeming it sub-human, as the obstetrician feared, and not wanted to take any responsibility whatsoever for what would be a brief and miserable life. Perhaps she would have wished all the anguish and disappointment away at once and been more comfortable denying her child’s very existence, consigning all thoughts of her imperfect creation to a forbidden memory, creating a secret never to be spoken of, as was more common to generations gone by. But was it ever the doctor’s call to make, in any time and in any place? After overcoming her initial shock, she might well have wanted to hold her child and comfort it. It was still her child. That this was denied her I find as upsetting as the lack of palliative care the poor infant received.

Of course, the main question here is one of ethics: would it not have been kinder to end this poor child’s life immediately and preferably with the blessing of its parents? As Dr Neuman states in response to a comment following his addendum, to prolong the child’s life – by intravenous therapy – would not have allayed its hunger and would have caused more pain through injections. There was never any doubt that the child would soon die. (However, I doubt that the pain of injections should be of concern to him now, and much less then, as he did not consider the pain involved in amputating a finger.)

Dr Neuman claims that he published the blog post not to upset people, although he realised that it would, but to provoke consideration of the two moral issues it presented: to not to tell the parents about their child’s condition (and to lie about its death), and “that a child doomed to suffer the rest of its short life should have its suffering ended as soon as possible” (which was not what happened).

Indeed, hindsight is wonderful, he is entitled to his regrets, but can any of us imagine being in his situation? To turn the other cheek is the easiest thing of all, we do it at scenes of emaciated children with flies on their faces in snapshot reminders of famine on television, usually when we’re gorging ourselves in comfort; we pretend the homeless man begging for change when we’re in a hurry isn’t there and that the person following behind will give generously anyway and make up for our regrettable rushing; we push out of our minds the frantic sounds of animals awaiting destruction in shelters because nobody wants them as we’re on our way to a happier, more colourful place to collect a pet for the kids. We don’t directly kill any of them, but of course we contribute to their deaths through our ignorance and inaction. Distancing ourselves from uncomfortable truths is how we sleep soundly at night.

The doctors and nurses dehumanised this anguished child to make their guilt and disgust less prominent. They willed it to die and for the awkwardness to be over so that they could get through the day more easily. How many of us wouldn’t have done the same?

The child was incapable of surviving without considerable intervention. To prolong such a miserable life through the wonders of medicine would be cruelty itself, I feel, but to choose to let a baby suffer a prolonged death in obvious distress is unforgivable. That deliberate neglect took place in a Catholic institution makes it all the more shameful (but perhaps not quite so surprising, come to think of it, but that’s a blog for another time).

This was passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia would have been less cruel.

My view remains that families ought to make difficult decisions concerning the lives of their loved ones, not doctors. How much love the parents of one so horribly disfigured and doomed could feel for their child was not for the doctors to estimate.

Taking away a parent’s right to decide if they wish to see and comfort their child as it approaches an inevitable death is unconscionable. They should have been given the opportunity to comfort their baby, to bury their baby and grieve for their baby. They, not doctors or nurses whether well-meaning or simply inconvenienced and upset, should have made the all-important decisions on behalf of that child – their child. One can only imagine whether they would have condoned the unnecessary surgery that caused the infant to cry out in pain, but you like to think they at least could have spared their child this needless suffering.

I wonder how much attitudes have really changed.

True that nowadays, with medical advances and greater emphasis on human rights, we keep people alive who would have soon perished 50 years ago. We keep people alive, many of whom, if they could communicate their true wishes, would likely plead for an end to their misery and indignity. I know that I would. I am also thankful that abortion means that a child such as the one described by Dr Neuman, who will have absolutely no quality of life even in the most advanced nations, need never be born.

Perhaps I am not alone in being sickened by the general arrogance of the medical profession. To me, Dr Neuman seems remorseless, stubborn in his defence of not only his actions but those of his superiors, and far more concerned for the distress being caused the nursing staff than the anguished cries of a clueless newborn.

He lacked the courage and integrity to speak out against what you would like to believe anybody could identify as a great injustice. Acknowledge his tender age and inexperience, conclude that he was perhaps unable to dissent under the circumstances, yet he remains complicit in the act of deception, mutilation and starvation, and for this I find no evidence of a guilty conscience in any of his words.

I cannot decide whether Dr Neuman deserves our condemnation or our sympathy. I think those who attack him most harshly ought to read his admittedly cold words a second time and try to put themselves in his place. Glass houses and stones and all that.

Yes, he writes insensitively, his lack of empathy fifty years later is worrying, the subject matter is deeply chilling (even to generations used to freak shows and the most vile of horror fantasies), and perhaps the timing only serves to confirm his cowardice, for he regales us with his memoirs secure in the knowledge that the parents of the wretched child are probably now dead and never likely to discover the grim truth. His only regret seems to be that he did not smother the unfortunate babe when the chance presented itself, yet even this professed compassion seems to owe more to sparing the nursing staff further anxiety and revulsion. The passages of time have clearly not softened his heart to the child’s plight; being somehow sub-human clearly meant the crying baby was less worthy of the nurses’ dedication and affection.

Be disturbed by his honesty by all means, but at the same time applaud it because it makes us question our own morality and consider the issues we would rather not wrestle with; in this case, the validity of legalising euthanasia, which is something we have discussed before, and the harsh fact that we cannot truly begin to imagine how we would have reacted to such an awful, awful scenario.

I still feel they should have ended the child’s life immediately. I consider it mercy when doctors, with morphine, hasten the demise of the fatally ill and most distressed.

Which is most cruel: to prolong one’s suffering or to wish to end it by taking a life?

A final question. If you read Dr Neuman’s blog post, is anyone else more troubled by the 70-year-old denied fluids because, to her doctor, it was “time for her to go,” and wonder how many other lucid, not-so-senior seniors have been prematurely dispatched on the say-so of a ‘professional’ to whom we entrust our lives? A truly frightful thought.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

64 thoughts on “Medical ethics”

  1. Some folks in the medical profession I’ve met have a habit of distancing themselves from patients and handle situations in a third person mode. Maybe that’s an imaginary wall they build after many years working at the hospital coal face?

    My wife and I foster kids and a senior doctor once delivered a medical report as she saw it. Frank and straight to the point. We really felt like our baby had just failed an MOT test and believed it was a sleight on our good work. We were greeted as fellow professionals, which we are but definitely falling short of the same mechanical, sterile standard she expected. The doctor was unaware of our concerns, and empathy believing we were on the same wavelength because the child wasn’t technically ours, biologically I mean.

    Doctors and surgeons seem to be able to make difficult decisions with the head, while not being influenced by the heart.

    I can’t answer your second last question dude. It would take someone far more judgmental, and less sensitive than me to make those decisions.

    Anyhoo, your own thoughts and that article disturbed me to the point of feeling physically sick… and probably something I will be thinking about for some time to come.

  2. If this child had been born and displayed incredible feats of intellectual aptitude and remarkable talent, along with special gifts to help mankind. Well, that would be a different tale with which the Government would intervene also, and cover up to protect society. Where have we heard this before. The beat goes on and on…

  3. The person I’d condemn is the obstetrician. On the basis that if his motivation was to spare the parents heartache by telling them their baby was stillborn, then in those circumstances he should have made damn sure that the wee soul was comforted, treated with respect and died as painlessly as possible.

    It really doesn’t look like that was his motivation though – and no, I don’t think it was his decision to make in the first place, he got it wrong on every level.

    1. Last night, I started wondering if it’s nothing but a sick hoax. Somehow it seems just too awful to have been possible in such an advanced, wealthy and warm nation as the United States. 1860s would be easier to grapple with, but 1960s? Yes, it was fifty years ago, as Dr Neuman points out several times, but that really doesn’t excuse anything. They had the exact same means of comforting that baby and of relieving his or her pain, and of shortening its sad life, in the 1960s, if they were absolutely sure that nothing could be done to improve it.

      It reminds me of a documentary I saw once and have tried to forget, perhaps the most disturbing and depressing thing I’ve ever watched; directed by Antony Butts, it was called After the Apocalypse. The scenes from an ‘Orphanage for Mutated Children’ in Kazakhstan are heartbreaking. One in twenty children are born with a severe physical or mental defect, including, in the most tragic cases, extreme deformities. This is a consequence of Soviet nuclear weapons testing. The views of a rather repulsive doctor, Dr Nurmagambetov, sicken you at times, but you can only begin to imagine the frustration of being responsible for so many children with such tremendous needs, having been abandoned by their parents in such a poor country.

      It’s obviously quite different from the case of Neuman’s Cyclops Child, of course, as this child wasn’t expected to live for very long, but it raises the same questions about quality of life.

      The trailer is here, if anyone wishes to be thoroughly depressed by it.

    2. I’d imagine that sort of thing was a lot more common place (although probably not to that degree) before routine scanning during pregnancy was introduced.

      As chance (well, twitter) would have it, I was reading this earlier on today.

    3. Another example is the thalidomide tragedy in the early 60s, which raises serious questions about the side-effects of drugs. Could a similar disaster still happen these days? So it seems.

      BTW, I didn’t know that “it probably began as a result of Nazi scientists looking for an ­antidote to sarin nerve gas.”

      Also the thalidomide scandal shows the worthlessness of animal testing, as thalidomide had been tested on animals extensively prior to its marketing and had been declared safe to use.

      The Tragedy of Thalidomide and the Failure of Animal Testing

      1. Quite right, but please don’t get me started on animal testing; I’m still furious to learn about this barbaric cruelty taking place on my doorstep over the weekend. As the final sentence of the article you provide sums up quite clearly, ‘animal testing does little to protect public health or to advance the cause of medicine.’ When are people going to get that through their thick skulls?

  4. The medical profession seems to see it as their mission to prolong life at any cost. They protect quantity of life, not quality. I would make a lousy doctor, in medical terms, because I would have the need to bring comfort and relief rather than increasing the length of life. That’s one reason why I am an educator (improving the lives of my students via the empowerment of a good education).

    It does seem cold and heartless to allow someone to die in the manner described, rather than to euthanize them, especially when everyone knows there can be no chance to bring this person to health an well-being. Were I one of the nurses involved, I might have quit the profession.

  5. … the text was written for “Psychology Today”, couldn’t it be an experiment to see how people react?

    Just maths: the doctor is still alive, but the parents surely dead by now… When my wife gave birth to our three children, hospital’s personnel was older than us, and we were in the mid twenties. This part of the story seems curious.

    The ethical problem is still there and I do not think that there’s a universal solution, except maybe, to try to do the best, but keep reminding yourself that that you may later come to a completely different decision.

    Very confusing topic, FEd, and hopefully none of us will have to decide upon a similar difficult issue..


    1. … the text was written for “Psychology Today”, couldn’t it be an experiment to see how people react?

      I wondered that, too. Let’s hope so.

      And yes, may nobody reading this ever have to experience the agony of such a sad, sad situation.

  6. It’s hard to believe anyone could leave a child to starve and die of thirst. Could the child cry to let them know it was suffering? But even it could not, they will have known the suffering they were inflicting.

    Just because the baby had abnormal features it was a baby and I agree the parents should have been told, asked them if they were prepared to see the child and tell them straight away that the child was in great pain and should be relieved of that with euthanasia. But I’m certain it would not have been the first time and will not be the last.

    Nothing surprises me about mankind any more.


    1. Could the child cry to let them know it was suffering?

      Yes, and the poor dab must have suffered terribly, bless his or her heart.

  7. What a disturbing topic. Difficult to discus. Depends on whether you think with your head or with your heart.

    I think the baby should have been given dignity and comfort until its (natural) death and only its parents could have provided him such comfort and love. Obviously the doctors and nurses didn’t. The parents should have been made aware of the situation. Now, let’s not forget that it was 50 years ago and I think that medicine was more a ‘paternalistic’ culture in those days. Such a lie (obstetrician) couldn’t happen these days. Also, fortunately, abortions are now legal in most countries (shut up, religions that are against abortion!).

    I have no sympathy at all for Dr Neuman, he doesn’t show any feeling, any compassion, any emotion. This unnecessary finger amputation is just abominable. And he is just hiding behind the easy “I was just following orders”. Is that what is written in the Hippocratic Oath?

    Anyway, beyond any controversial human behaviour, this sad story just provides one more proof – if it was ever needed – that God doesn’t exist. How could he allow such misery? Just my opinion.

    1. Anyway, beyond any controversial human behaviour, this sad story just provides one more proof – if it was ever needed – that God doesn’t exist. How could he allow such misery? Just my opinion.

      Mine too. I completely agree.

    2. … it seems so obvious when you allow yourself to “let go” of the idea that it is one of the great mysteries of life how any intelligent person could think otherwise … and yet how many millions or billions believe? Extraordinary.

  8. Hello Fed and bloggers, my name is Rose and I’m a long time lurker. I thought I would comment on Fed’s post as I think there is something wrong with Dr Neuman’s story.

    My twin boys, born 3 months early nearly 30 years ago, were taken to the special care baby unit because they were so tiny. One of the my boys only survived 24 hours, the other put up a huge fight and survived.

    My son spent seven months in hospital fighting for his life, there were a few moments when we thought we’d lose him but he’s extremely strong and has come through things you wouldn’t believe.

    Whilst we were in hospital, (I say “we” because as a mother of a baby in SCBU, you seem to spend every available minute with your child), we saw a lot of babies come and go, most got big and strong and went home quite soon, a few were like my son, a very few babies were very different.

    There are a few babies I’m going to tell you about.

    Baby 1, was a big full term baby, she had absolutely masses of black hair some of it growing low under the main hairline onto her face, her head seemed to be a little large and the thick eyebrows made her look quite different from the other babies. It turned out that she was born with oesophagus and trachea joined, she could not be fed. She had a drip for fluids at least. She was kept comfortable for the several days it took the doctors to discover the extent of her problems then sadly, the decision was made that nothing could be done for her and treatment was withdrawn. She had other problems besides the feeding problem. I never saw any family round this baby.

    The nurses continued to care for her, the drip was removed but she was given morphine. I don’t remember how long it took her to pass away but she was certainly not alone and uncared for.

    Baby 2, was another full term baby. This one soon demonstrated that there was something wrong and was transferred up from the maternity ward. His Mum told me his kidneys were full of holes and weren’t working, the family was told there was nothing could be done and he was moved to a side room where the family could spend time with him until the end. I’m presuming he was given pain relief. The nurses went in and out doing his care.

    Baby 3, was in the unit for only a week. I didn’t get to speak to the family, but overheard them discussing their conversations with the doctors, overheard their own thoughts on the matter and it seems that the baby had severe problems and severe brain damage. They discussed turning the machines off and that indeed was what their final decision was. I was in tears and had to leave the unit as the baby died in his mothers arms.

    In each case, the doctors and nurses were magnificent. I can’t speak more highly of them. Sometimes when I was in on a late night visit, it was open door policy for parents and siblings, I would come across a member of staff in tears.

    I think either things have changed to be very much better or that Dr Neuman mis-remembers how things really were.

    I have also witnessed an adult who had a terminal condition have his antibiotics and fluids removed. He was already slipping in and out of coma and morphine was given. His family were with him for three days and nights. I felt terribly sorry for them.

    At all times for the babies I knew and this adult, the nurses continued to provide care, keeping the patient clean, moistening their lips, changing the patients position, those sorts of things.

    I hope no one will be upset by what I have said.

    Best wishes to all,

    1. Thank you very much for that insight, Rose. Upsetting, maybe, but also comforting and encouraging.

    2. Good to “see” you Rose.

      I think the experiences you cite are certainly the normal response to unfortunate conditions of this kind, far more typical than the Neuman example which seems to me at least embellished for the sake of discussion.

      It’s also interesting how, to all intents and purposes, we have a system where, by not striving officiously, we effectively euthanise by withdrawal of treatment alongside palliative care. And yet we cling on to the idea that life is sacred and we should not extend these practices into the realm of assisted suicide and the choice to die.

      The justification for this is often the danger of abuse, but the cases where we allow it are usually where there is no possibility of a choice being expressed. I’m thinking in particular of the terrible case of Tony Nicklinson, a man with locked-in syndrome who argues so coherently for the right to die but is so disabled than he cannot perform the act himself. For him to be told that this would not be “good” for him really sticks in my throat.

      Sorry Fed, I know we’ve done Euthanasia before but unfortunately we didn’t seem to solve the problem yet! Is nobody listening?

      1. I’m thinking in particular of the terrible case of Tony Nicklinson, a man with locked-in syndrome who argues so coherently for the right to die but is so disabled than he cannot perform the act himself. For him to be told that this would not be “good” for him really sticks in my throat.

        Mine, too. Someone so incredibly intelligent and coherent, as you say. I can’t even begin to imagine his anguish.

    3. Sorry Fed, I know we’ve done Euthanasia before but unfortunately we didn’t seem to solve the problem yet! Is nobody listening?

      I’m sure as the costs of looking after an ageing population become a bigger drain on limited resources (excluding the ones that can have every penny squeezed out of them for their care, of course, them we need) not only will euthanasia be acceptable, it’ll be positively encouraged..

    4. Just read that Tony Nicklinson
      Tony Nicklinson died today, he had refused food from last week. The end of a “living nightmare” as he described his life.

      Can we say that he finally won his fight to the right to die?

      Let’s hope (as a professor of law at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King’s College London said) that Mr Nicklinson’s plight will continue to raise questions (and get human answers) about a change in the law.

  9. Wow Fed, another huge post full of massive questions.

    My first thought was, why was this psychologist telling anyone about what he saw when he was a trainee? I don’t think he had to be a qualified physician in order to become a psychologist, at least you don’t in Britain. (Anyone who knows differently, I apologise and would thank you to correct me. 🙂 )

    I also wonder if he’s bringing this story up fifty years later because, shame on him, he’s using it as a sensational story for his blog (or whatever).

    I don’t think anyone, not even a vet, ever, removed an unwanted bit by banding it. I’ve heard of that being done to warts, I think. I’d also ask, if this baby was going to die, what did it matter how many fingers she had?

    If this trainee psychologist was not a medically qualified doctor, and still isn’t, how can he be certain of what he saw? Perhaps qualified, experienced staff were “getting on with the real job”, and he was simply horrified by what he saw.

    Anyway, I agree with you Fed, pain control until the end, full knowledge by the family, also support for staff who must feel when they see this.

    As for the seventy year old, what appalling treatment! I can’t believe it goes on. My Dad in his eighties, had a stroke and fell breaking a leg (didn’t you notice how quiet it was ’round here? :)) ) He was in hospital for a few months on a ward with lots of other elderly people. The care was second to none. The staff truly are angels with the patience of saints.

    I find it difficult to believe Dr Neuman and I seriously wonder about his motive.


    1. I wonder if the parents knew, but then, I wonder too much.

      I hope your father is doing well.

  10. Hello again.

    Completely off topic but this is related to David Gilmour. How you may ask?

    One of the Sam Ash stores on 48th Street is actually the former Manny’s Music Store. Manny’s is where David bought the infamous Black Strat (and Roger bought a Fender bass as well).

    It’s sad that the location is closing but at least it is just moving and not going out of business.


  11. The opening of the Olympics. What happened to the history of Britain, where did 2000 years go? The Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, the Saxons. Four chimneys, what’s that all about?


  12. Dark Side of The Moon – London Olympics. Were you aware of that Fed? Looked like a Floyd GiG.

    That one’s for Rick.


    1. I liked the version of Wish You Were Here that Nick Mason played on, during the closing ceremony.

      That was a big surprise, I’d never imagined a group other than Pink Floyd making a good job of it. I particularly loved the tightrope walker and man bursting into flames. 🙂

  13. Hi F’Ed:

    It’s been far too long since I have last posted and I see the subjects have gotten very serious and thought provoking. Hope I can just submit the comment that I enjoyed the little nods to Pink Floyd at the Olympic opening ceremonies.

    Hope all at the blog are well.

    All the best,

  14. Dear F.Ed.

    It’s a very sad story.

    There is no meaning of life. Nobody asks to be born, but all we are here anyway.

    I do not know what choice might be better, for the parents, in front of a seriously disabled infant, between an abortion or a sort of merciful euthanasia.

    Doctors should of course follow their Hippocratic oath, in the interest of the patient, anyway also the conscientious objection in medicine is a moral and ethical dilemma. The religious believers put the life in God’s hands anyway. I’m firmly persuaded that no human laws or medical protocols can solve these dilemmas..

    Off topic – The Gilmour’s anniversary

    Catullo – Poem 109

    “Iucundum, mea vita, mihi proponis amorem
    hunc nostrum inter nos perpetuumque fore.
    di magni, facite ut uere promittere possit,
    atque id sincere dicat et ex animo,
    ut liceat nobis tota perducere uita
    aeternum hoc sanctae foedus amicitiae.”

    “You promise to me, my life, that this love of ours
    shall be happy and last for ever between us.
    Ye great gods, grant that she may be able to keep this promise truly,
    and that she may say it sincerely and from her heart,
    so that it may be our lot to extend through all our life
    this eternal compact of hallowed friendship.”

    My warmest wishes with so much affection and Happy Anniversary to you both, David and Polly. Have a bright and happy day.

    All the best!

    and to F.Ed. : Lots of Love!

    Elisabetta – Italy N/E

  15. Many thanks for the lovely photo you posted on Twitter today, Polly.

    Wish you and David a very Happy Wedding Anniversary! 🙂

  16. I´m a doctor, an obstetrician from Brazil.

    Excuse me for my poor English.

    I´m very scared with this notice you´d posted.

    Doctors, in this case obstetricians, are not the owner of their patients… The ´Cyclops child´, and other malformed newborns, are the son OF HIS MOTHER!! It´s so clear! Doctor had studied hard for so many years just to HELP them, both mother and son, not to KILL him. They, doctors, can´t loose their best feelings and humanity sense!

    It´s unbelievable! A short and miserable life is still a life!

    Who can translate Nature´s intentions?

    Shine on you crazy diamond!

  17. I wouldn’t want to venture into my thoughts on euthanasia. However, I do want to send out much happier thoughts…

    Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary to David and Polly!

  18. I wouldn’t want to venture into my thoughts on euthanasia. However, I do want to send out much happier thoughts…

    Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary to David and Polly!

    I hope your day was filled with many new happy memories. 🙂

  19. Happy Anniversary, bet the party was great, lots of cake and bubbly. Who was the band playing?


  20. Re Olympics… and did anyone notice the Romanian gymnast who did her floor section to ‘Shine On’? They won team bronze but surely deserved Gold for taste in music!

    Hope all is well with you.

    Best wishes

    1. I heard that in the background during one of the American women’s events and then saw the Romanian woman perform the floor exercise to it. It’s great to have Pink Floyd/David Gilmour as part of the opening ceremony as well as the competition. 🙂

  21. Hi FEd!

    I had a sister born anencephalic (without a brain, she had just the brain stem), in 1960. She live a couple of days. My mother was never allowed to hold or see her, nor even attend her funeral. Others were… my dad, aunts and such. She mourned her for the rest of her life. There was never any closure.

    In my opinion, NO ONE has the right to make this type of choice for a parent.

    On a lighter note, happy belated wishes to David and Polly!

    How have you been doing FEd? It’s been awhile since we’ve spoken! I hope all is well.

    Take Care All


    1. Thank you for that, Penny. This topic has really troubled me more than any other; there’s so much to consider.

      I appreciate your personal contribution.

    1. Interesting. Thaks for that Pavlov.

      I also read Dr Neuman’s response. My feeling about him is he feels overwhelmed by guilt and wallows in self pity. He’s seeking some sort of comfort by kidding himself that what he describes is an interesting psychological research topic that he had personal experience of. Namely that of medical staff facing up to suffering of their patients. He’s seeking to justify his behaviour particularly in trying to remove the baby’s finger.

      I really can’t get my head round why remove a finger, was that really how they did it in the 60’s and this sad baby was used to teach a procedure? Someone should be punished for that. I’ve met kids with extra fingers and toes, they don’t spit poison in anyone’s eyes or anything and they don’t have scales or worship the devil.

      I look back at the first comment to this blog post, Alex spoke about the apparently dispassionate attitude the professionals seemed to adopt and that they expected Alex and his wife to take the same objective approach. 😀 Alex, I know exactly what you mean. However, I’ve learned that eventually a parent does indeed learn to be objective because once you have accepted what the problem is, you are free to get on with the really hard job of caring properly for your child. That said, I admit there have been times when the highly emotional, totally irrational parent in me has nearly won!!!

      The professionals MUST learn to be objective and dispassionate otherwise they would not have the emotional strength to do their job. I hope you understand what I mean Alex, I hugely admire a family that voluntarily takes on a child with problems. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it. (Not that I wish my child wasn’t here!)

      I think the only resolution for Dr Neuman, pity he couldn’t think it through for himself, would have been to carry on working in that field then he would have developed the toughness needed to nurse deformed children and forgive himself because in the end, he would have done well by so many others. I think he’s analysed the thing to death and that isn’t enough for him.

      I don’t feel any pity for Dr Neuman as you may well guess. I do applaud all the nurses and doctors who do such a fine job despite having human emotions.

      Best wishes, (especially to Alex and family),


  22. The blog topic is very grim as life is at times. Makes us embrace what is beautiful about life as it is a gift that is longer to enjoy for some and not at all for others at no doing of their own other than being born to unfortunate circumstances.

    Due to the circumstances I was born into my family was exposed to asbestos as many many others. I am thankful for the suicide law that was finally passed where I live. Why keep going only to suffer and make the medical facilities richer? If there is hope by all means do everything one can to hold on. But when the hope ends… it is time to go…

    As for the sad blog topic – the parents should have been told. Hopefully the mother would have had strong maternal instincts and would have been able to hold her newborn till the little soul was able to pass. It is awful that the doctor took it upon himself to take this away from mother and child! And then to torture the little soul.

    It is very sad to think of this innocent being deprived of love and comfort. A friend of mine gave birth to her baby knowing that at a six month ultra sound that the baby would not live long after birth due to not have a skull cap. They had the baby c-section when the due date arrived. Had the family in, the baby baptized, pictures taken and held the little one till she left. The baby knew of love… When loved ones have to go I feel it is important to let them know how much they are loved and to hug them, hold them. What is a mind fry is the “death grip” – when holding a loved ones hand when they leave, the heart keeps beating till you let go… It made me want to hold on forever… but to keep living you have to let go some time… hospice explained it to me that they are already gone, it is the electrical impulses from one human to another that keeps the loved one’s body here for that time frame but the soul has soared. So the little baby and all of us tortured souls do find release from the boo boos us humans do to one another – I hope usually not on purpose but for some people they do make life harder for some/many. So the best we can do is be kind to one another and not judge unless it is to avoid a bad/dangerous situation.

  23. Hi FEd,

    totally off topic but I couldn’t resist: after months searching for the “On an Island” songbook, I finally found one for a reasonable price in the well known auction website (50 Euro, compared to what Amazon charges, are cheap). The point is that I already owned it, but gave it by mistake away for recycling along with other books and magazines. I still miss a PF special and another songbook. 🙁

    Lesson learned: don’t throw anything away before double checking it!

    Best regards from South Pilion, Greece, where we spend our vacations,


    1. Oh dear. I’m glad you found a replacement, Taki, and hope you’re having a lovely holiday.

    2. Just an update:

      Obviously I have no luck with that songbook! After giving my copy away for recycling, I returned from vacations, only to find out, that the postal services managed to get it wet and messed up. 🙁 Hell, there were only 2-3 rainy days in August…

      At least the pages can be read, so it will do its job.


  24. One comment only about the topic thread, although I have much to say. But it’s all truly depressing and let me say that this topic truly distresses and disturbs me. So let me just make my dimes’ worth of worldly wisdom for what it’s worth:

    This doctor needs to have his medical license to practice revoked and he needs to go to trial. The trial of public opinion is so obviously against his inhumane actions.

  25. Thanks FEd! We actually enjoy it very much.

    Rumours here in Kalamos say that one PF member had a house somewhere here in the seventies or eighties, but I won’t try to verify it…


  26. My mum died three years ago. She had been undergoing dialysis three times a week for a year due to chronic kidney disease. She then had a massive stroke which left her unable to swallow or speak or walk. Although she was on intravenous fluids they continued to dialyse her three times a week, taking about three litres of fluid each time. During one dialysis session she ‘crashed’ having a massive gastro-intestinal bleed and had to be transfused with five pints of blood. Thereafter she was a DNR (do not resuscitate) should it happen again.

    The dialysis nurses were brilliant as they always had been. The nurses on the stroke ward, however, were of no help at all. On a stroke ward you would think they would put the patients’ family at ease. Strokes have different degrees of severity. A little bit of information from a person would be much better than being handed a leaflet!! The first one we spoke to after mum’s stroke basically said “massive bleed on her brain, it’s not looking good”. I finally got to speak to the doctor in charge of her care three weeks after her stroke and he said they thought it best if they “withdraw all treatment and just let her go”. All this time mum couldn’t communicate but you could tell she was in pain, she was drawing her legs up and cradling her stomach. I pleaded with them to give her something and they did relent and gave her morphine. She lasted two more weeks like this. She hung on for five weeks in total.

    In a lot of ways her death was a blessing in that she was no longer suffering and you have no idea how guilty I feel saying that. I feel a lot more could have been done to make her more comfortable as well as the nurses and doctors being more forthcoming with information. A complaint was put forward to the local Health Authority but I decided not to pursue this as I work for the same Health Authority.

    Doctors don’t seem to think about the family members and the distress of seeing loved ones suffer. They may think is the right course of action by not saying anything. Personally I think a lot of doctors are very selfish and are not as compassionate as they should be.

    Forgive me for going on a bit. Never written on a blog before but just felt there were some similarities to what others have written.

    Warmest regards


    1. My sincerest condolences, Andy, and thank you for sharing.

      From my own personal experience, I can relate to what you’re saying. It’s not nice having to plead for morphine on behalf of a loved one who is in obvious pain. It should be completely unacceptable that you should have to point out the obvious. But then, in my experience, even getting a simple jug of water was too much to ask of some nurses on some occasions, and I completely agree that some doctors are not as compassionate as they should be. In fact, I think many are too self-important to bother with simple commoners who won’t understand their language.

      Before anyone attacks me for saying that, don’t get me wrong; I’m proud of the NHS, but there’s an awful lot wrong with it.

  27. Heavy Duty topic FEd.

    All I can say is that things have changed. I was there when my daughter was born, impossible to cover up.


  28. Fed, you may think this is inappropriate for this site. I’ve put it here in Medical Ethics because its about the morality of a mental health worker. However, I leave it to you entirely about whether or not to publish. I’ve done some ranting already to Manchester police and the advocacy service which serves Ashworth prison.

    I just wanted to tell my friends how furious I am at this ‘advocate’, Jackie Powell and her 13 year involvement with Brady. She had information which she withheld. She was effectively complicit in the torture of Kieth Bennett’s mother.

    Winnie died today after hoping for 47 years that her son’s body would be found. She died without knowing the new furore stirred up by the evil bastard Brady and his ‘advocate’ accomplice.

    God rest Winnie’s soul.

    I hope Brady continues to live a long painful life, he should have his evil tongue cut out. I hope his 13 year accomplice is prosecuted for her part in torturing Winnie and Keith’s family. She should maybe go into hiding for her own good. I’m not normally a nasty vengeful person but I do remember what Brady did and the recordings he made.

    As a society, we have the opportunity in our time to tell our authorities, governors, law makers, whoever else, that we will not tolerate these sorts of crimes, especially not torture.

    I have e-mailed Manchester police and the advocacy service which serves Ashworth Hospital in case anyone else feels inspired to do the same.


    1. I purposely avoided the programme because I thought it was another opportunity for Brady to “toy” with people, to inflict pain on Winnie and her family. I probably should not have pre-judged it because now I’m interested in the part that Jackie Powell played.

      Did you watch it Fed, anyone else? What did you make of Powell’s demeanour? Did you get the impression she had been taken in by Brady, or that she was an attention seeker herself trying to make out that she was an “important person”, or did she come across as someone who was working to gain Brady’s confidence so he would give her information? (Mind you, 13 years to gain his confidence makes it sound like he was playing her.)

      I’ll have to see if I can find it on replay. (I wonder if that means I’m being sucked in by Brady too.)

      I read in one of your linked articles that he is close to death, I hope they do everything in their power to keep him alive and suffering.


      1. I’m not sure, Ash. She was very calm and collected, I didn’t feel she was delighting in the attention particularly, yet something about her made me uncomfortable. Too cold, but then, she has to be.

        It should still be available on 4oD.

    2. I received a reply today from Ashworth Hospital! The person who wrote to me included this link.

      Didn’t get any reply from the police.

      It all seems very mysterious, who did employ her? Was she self employed? One of the newspapers described how she was paid by legal aid for a long time! I can’t understand how anyone would voluntarily work for Brady never mind for so many years. I think there’s something wrong about her.


      1. Having said that, did you see the ITV drama, Appropriate Adult, about Janet Leach? I can’t remember if we discussed it previously. She was appointed to sit in on police interviews with Fred West, who was considered to be a vulnerable adult. A chilling, disturbing, yet fascinating role, I would imagine.

        Thought Dominic West was fantastic as Fred West, by the way.

        This trailer from the Sundance Channel is typically corny, but you get the gist of it. Asia’s ITV Granada have also made it look like something that belongs on the True Entertainment channel.

        I thought it was really good (unlike the Daily Mail, but then, I’m usually relieved to disagree with the Daily Mail).

    3. I didn’t see that either. How interesting though. Obviously I remember the case and the horror of it all as the details unfolded.

      What was interesting was discovering the role of the appropriate adult in such cases and how it appears to have affected Janet Leach. I discovered a news article about how she sought compensation for post traumatic stress syndrome caused by her involvement. I couldn’t find out if she won her case.

      Interesting that she was able to participate in the making of the TV dramatisation. Also interesting that her son was upset by his mother’s involvement.

      I’m inclined to think that Janet and her family’s life was badly affected by her experience. How does a volunteer know what they are getting into?

      It obviously had a huge psychological effect on her and has probably tarnished or coloured everything she has done ever since, can’t really blame her for trying to make money out of it. I’m a bit more worried about how it affected her son. I know he’s a grown man now, but there were weird goings on during some of his formative years.

      What else is interesting is how the public, all of us, lap up all these dramatisations, violent films, gruesome “entertainment”, and all that kind of stuff as entertainment. Just like the Romans watching gladiators fighting to the death, so it’s nothing new, we do seem to have a morbid curiosity, or something.

      Fed, we’re alone in this corner of the pub, they’ve all gone off to discuss what music to put on the jukebox next. Here’s a tenner, get another round in. 😉

  29. Yes, I’ve met distant medical people myself. A lot of them have to be to do the job, I know that. However, I think mental health staff can be very weird. The ones I have come across always scare me, they seem quiet and as if they are analysing you even when you’re not the patient!

    Thanks for the link to 4oD Fed, apologies, I haven’t looked at it yet (hanging head in shame), been too busy watching sports. Looking forward to going into long term hatred of sports again soon though. :))

    Happy Birthday Michèle!!!


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