I remember the last terminal patient I nursed before I quit hospital work. I was doing an agency shift on the general medicine unit and she was a green 28-year-old lady who wasn’t expected to survive out the day. The reason she was green was because her liver had failed sometime previously and her jaundice was now very profound.
“But I didn’t ever drink more than friends did.” She protested to one of the other nurses. I guess it seemed unfair. She wasn’t an alcoholic, hadn’t ever deliberately hurt another person, injected drugs or been unemployed. She was simply a “good time girl” and now she was green and really didn’t look very nice at all. She died later in the day, surrounded by her horrified friends and distraught family. That was a very difficult day at work indeed.
When the media revealed that following his liver transplant George Best’s alcoholism was continuing unabated, the number of organ donations dropped enormously. I guess potential donors took the view that they didn’t want “people like him” getting their organs. As I said to one guy at work who dramatically tore up his donor card in protest, “So, because George Best breaks a second liver, no one else is allowed to have one either?”
Public and media attitudes can be very strange indeed and just filled with contradictions. Several years ago, the Marie Stopes clinic announced that a new technique for abortions meant that overnight stays in the clinic could be unnecessary. The technique was less traumatic and less intrusive and the woman undergoing the procedure could be in and out in an hour.
So, how did the media carry the story? Well: “Maries Stopes Clinic Announce The Lunch Time Abortion.” Yes, that is right folks, now you can have an abortion in your lunch hour.
This is disgraceful. To portray abortion as a frivolous event to be happily reserved for lunchtime is reframing at its very worst. It is almost as if the media were stating, “Yes, we agree with women’s right to choose, but surely it should carry some level of trauma in order to allay our sense of moral discomfort?”
This is why I’ll be watching the media with interest regarding two of the main health-news stories today.
1. Charles Kennedy admits that he has had a problem with alcohol. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4586486.stm
2. Liver Cirrhosis deaths in the UK dramatically increase. Binge drinking to blame.
Tonight – no pub, no booze, no cigarettes. Instead I am joining the astronomy club. I’m looking to the stars.