Doing the right thing in sickness and death

Over the past few months the world has been hit by a global pandemic that may be completely undetectable in terms of symptoms (especially in children), mimics flu in it’s early stages, or causes death – fairly rapidly. Wherever and however the pandemic started it is our collective responsibility to see as little harm and suffering is caused as possible whilst we work out how to prevent its spread and treat it. We also need to think about how the sick and vulnerable in our societies can be protected.

As a health professional, I  have learned about healing bodies and keeping them well – and this has been my life’s work – for thirty years – as a Chinese medicine practitioner and craniosacral therapist. As a Chinese herbalist I actually have two millennia of knowledge to draw on about the treatment of epidemic and pandemic illnesses – with more than 300 recorded epidemics. It is important to remember that illnesses may be novel – but bodies respond in similar ways. The aim of the therapies I work with are not to strike the viral invader but to help the body to fight the virus and help clear up the mess afterwards. This approach works very well together with allopathic or conventional medicine – but only the Chinese are benefiting from combining the two approaches at the moment. Minds are sadly closed in the UK where I live and work – at a governmental level – to the therapies I work with. Decisions about which therapies and medicines are supported and promoted by the state are political choices – and each week, on a Thursday at 8pm, I go and clap my colleagues working in the NHS who are getting sick and dying in great numbers – feeling frustrated because my knowledge and skill, which could be helping, are not appreciated or wanted by the state.

As a health scientist I have an understanding of disease epidemiology and of the development and subsequent evaluation of the efficacy and safety of medicines and health care interventions. I appreciate too how much we can learn from the dead – from the autopsies of people who have not survived. But having lost a close relative at the beginning of the pandemic – on March 20th my brother died – I see that instead of learning about the dead there is too little thought given as to how others might be saved on the part of the authorities and government agencies, particularly the MHRA (Medicines Heath Regulation Authority) who have not given enough consideration to my brother’s case. It was not straightforward to get a post-mortem for my brother – whose death was sudden and totally unexpected – and came after he was misdiagnosed and given antibiotics that seemed to result in a heart attack. If the probability had been that he died of Covid 19 then no post mortem would have been done – and he would never have been tested for the virus in life or death. As a result of the post mortem we learned my brother did not die from Covid 19 – but he may well have died because of it – as the illness has put great pressure on the health service. He suffered a massive heart attack after the earlier heart attack he experienced was confused, by him, as being down to the side effects of the incorrect (but from his perspective much needed) medication he had been given.

It can be hard to tell if someone has heart disease – with the symptoms of respiratory infection and heart disease being so similar, and I have no wish to attribute blame on the health care professional who misdiagnosed my brother and gave him the wrong treatment. In any case, the protocols that should have been followed were probably adhered to so there would be no point in making a complaint. My experience of making complaints, and I have had to make quite a few as an adoptive parent raising a child from the UK care system with inadequate support (and heavy handed scrutinising of one’s parenting to find fault – under the auspices of safeguarding) is such that I know full well the institutions, organisations and medical professionals involved would seek to defend their actions – and thereby protect the status quo. Sadly, we live in a blame culture in the UK – and blame always travels downwards – giving organisations and institutions great power over individuals who decide to stand up to them – to do the right thing. It is a desperate situation indeed when we discover that doctors, nurses and care workers are sent out to treat the sick with inadequate protection – and risk being treated like whistle blowers if they complain. Injustices prevail that cannot be rectified because correct procedures have been followed by organisations. It shouldn’t be about doing things right – it should absolutely be about doing the right thing, especially when someone has died – but too often there is a mismatch between these.

I haven’t had a very good time so far in the pandemic. Organisations and my brother’s employers of twenty years were not interested in how my brother died. They are not interested in whether others could be helped. IPSO (the Independent Press Standards Organisation), to whom I turned to to make a complaint about the online tabloid press, have been particularly obstructive and unhelpful. I don’t honestly know who is worse – the craven press who targeted my twitter feed in the aftermath of my brother’s death to try and get a story to link it to Covid 19 and the production closure of the soap Hollyoaks (where my brother worked) – or IPSO. I think probably the latter because this is an organisation in whom the public needs to have confidence – if it is to be worthwhile.

I am so sorry for my lovely brother – that all my efforts have been in vain and I could not give him dignity in death that any person surely deserves – of having the reasons for the death being given proper consideration to help others avoid death.

I have started this petition and ask that you sign it

Amend the Editor’s Code to prevent media exploitation in illness and death

I also ask that you think about the changes that have been imposed on our most vulnerable children in care by this government, which you are probably not even aware of – and join with the Children’s Commissioner and the Labour Party in asking for them to be revoked – as they are not necessary and harm will potentially result for some of our most vulnerable children. You can read more about this here – in an article that appeared in Community Care

As far as Chinese medicine goes – well we may have a very long way to go indeed in the UK. One of my clients was trying to help when a family member working in the NHS had caught the virus . The response – the Chinese caused the virus. Fortunately not everyone takes such a judgemental attitude towards another race. Britain is a multicultural society where such explicit racism is not well tolerated.

It is time now, with this pandemic, to start doing the right thing. This means caring a lot more about the vulnerable, ill and the dead. We are in trouble and are being called upon to change – and some radical transformation is needed.