Blog : Posts tagged with 'medicine'

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Birth

In which we praise Parliament, a very rare thing


As you’ll have no doubt read in the news, Parliament has voted against reducing the abortion time-limit. I’m pleased and amazed – for once, a political decision has gone by which has been apparently been decided on the basis of fact, not emotion.* That’s been a rare thing for the past few years. Maybe we need to have free votes more often.

In case you missed it, the media debate leading up to this vote went something like this:

Religious fundamentalists:** We need to ban abortion reduce the abortion time limit.

Scientists, doctors, medical charities, and so on: [some facts showing that we shouldn’t]

Religious fundamentalists: [emotional handwaving]

Scientists, doctors, medical charities, and so on: [more facts]

Religious fundamentalists: [more emotional claptrap]

Lots of Conservative MPs [the religious fundamentalists’ surveys and anecdotes repeated wholesale]

Parliament: 190 in favour, 332 against.

Maybe I’m being slightly unfair, in that it wasn’t just the Conservatives voting for the amendment. Ruth Kelly did, of course, although I was surprised that Jim Dobbin, Labour, and leader of the parliamentary all-party pro-life group was nowhere to be seen. He’s a Catholic, and has previously said that he’s against both abortion and contraception. Well, I suppose he’s a better Catholic than Cherie Blair, at any rate. The Tories were the only party whose leadership was pushing hard on the issue, though – K’s MP, a Tory frontbencher for many years, voted with the party line. My own (Labour) MP, I’m pleased to say, voted against.

* This may not be quite true – I’m giving people the benefit of the doubt here. What is true is that Parliament voted for the fact-supported side of the argument; it may be a step too far to say that it was the facts which made them vote that way.

** Nadine Dorries, the apparent leader of the campaign, has claimed that she is not at all a religious fundamentalist. However, she worked very closely with religious campaigners, and admitted that they supplied a lot of the information she used in the campaign. The website run by and for her campaign was set up by and in the name of a group of very fervent religious campaigners, Christian Concern For Our Nation. Ironically, Dorries likes to go on about “the abortion industry” and how it needs to be stopped, when she was formerly a director of BUPA, one of the largest non-NHS abortion producers in the country. One wonders how much anti-abortion campaigning she did in their board meetings.

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It’s Only Natural

In which we are careful not to confuse “natural” and “beneficial”


Two things struck me about the coverage yesterday of Patricia Tabram‘s drugs conviction. Tabram, in case you didn’t see the news, is the Northumberland woman convicted of growing cannabis for medical reasons. She likes to claim that her conviction is part of a grand struggle for rights, like the right of everyone to vote, which is over-egging her pudding a little. She’s certainly been using her conviction as part of a broad political campaign,* but that’s about as far as the similarities go.

Anyway, interviewed on Radio 4 last night, she said something along the lines of: cannabis is good medicine because it’s natural. Prescription drugs are not because they’re full of chemicals.** Which, of course, is a load of nonsense. Some people like to use the word “chemicals” as if it’s some dark, lurking evil, and like to imply that anything grown on a plant is healthy and implicitly Good For You. Despite this, you rarely find them tucking into a nice meal of potato fruit and yew berries.*** How many different chemicals are in your average pill? A handful. How many different chemicals are in a marijuana leaf? Thousands.

Tabram also said that prescription medicine made her feel suicidal, but cannabis had no side-effects at all. That’s her experience, though. Everyone has different side-effects to any sort of drug, “natural” or otherwise; I’ve known several people who have had bad psychological reactions to cannabis. It may be relatively innocuous, but just because you’re fine with it doesn’t mean the person next to you will be. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

* Standing against Peter Hain at the last general election, appearing on the telly a lot, trying to get people to call her “the cannabis gran”, that sort of thing. I had second thoughts about mentioning her here, because I don’t like giving publicity to publicity-seekers, but frankly this blog is a drop in the ocean.

** Not her exact words, but that was the message she was trying to give.

*** I shouldn’t need to say this, but potato fruit are rather poisonous, and yew seeds are very poisonous indeed.

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Thank heaven for pseudoephedrine

In which tastes seem to be changing in a worrying direction


Because without it, I’d still be laid on the sofa with blocked sinuses and an awful headache.

Yesterday, whilst I was in that state, I was listening with my Dad to Radio 2,* to Arthur Smith‘s comedy clip series The Smith Lectures. And, during the show, he played Ford Kiernan‘s cover of the Coldplay song “Yellow”, done in a swing style.**

I was laid there listening to this, this annoying ballad redone as a nice cheerful piece of easy-listening swing, and I couldn’t help thinking: this is actually rather good. Certainly compared to the original: it has verve,*** it has wit, and it doesn’t have Chris Martin’s horrible whining all over it. But it’s swing. It’s Easy Listening! Am I getting old?

* it was his choice, I’d like to add, not mine.

** according to The Internet, it was released on his charity album Swing When You’re Mingin’.

*** but not The Verve, of course

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Just Say No, Kids

In which people complain about something they volunteered themselves for


There’s been an awful lot in the news lately about the drug trial whose guinea-pigs are dangerously ill.* My own abnormal reaction is: they volunteered for this. They may well have come out of trials before with no problems, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be as lucky on the next trial they take. The chance of something like this happening is miniscule, but it’s still there.

Am I being too callous? It is, of course, still a horrible thing to happen to someone, and to their relatives. One of their relatives, a BBC producer called Myfanwy Marshall, has been on the news constantly since it happened, telling us all how horrible it is that her boyfriend is dangerously ill, and has lost his good looks. On an interview last night, she said how shocked she was that he suddenly looks middle-aged – “forty-five”, she said. I know people don’t always say what they mean when they’re under stress, but it certainly seemed to show a lot about her priorities in life.

* Well, three-quarters of them – the others were on the placebo.

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