Tasering of patients

Dutch daily Trouw prominently featured anger about a human rights violation on its 6 September front page (online version).

Not only had Dutch police tasered a patient in so-called drive-stun mode (“pain compliance“), the patient in question already was in solitary confinement.

I was shocked when I read this. It seems to signal a return to practices I thought we had left behind a long time ago, and it particularly worries me that this happened in the Netherlands of all places.

“This is torture,” say Amnesty International as well as organizations of patients and their relatives, and Amnesty has called for an immediate suspension of the use of this type of weapon by Dutch police, so I understand. According to Trouw, the taser’s manufacturer advises against use on psychiatric patients and Amnesty believes taser use may actually be life-threatening in such cases.

This is likely the first time a taser was used to subdue a hospitalized psychiatric patient in the Netherlands, where three-hundred police officers are currently testing tasers.

The following appears to have transpired.

On 17 July, police officers were called to a hospital in Cappelle aan de IJssel, in which a male patient in his twenties was having a psychotic episode. (When Dutch police are called to a hospital for a problem with a patient, police take over responsibility.)

The patient was having a bad day, apparently, and had refused to take his antipsychotic medicines. Rotterdam police were first called to force the patient into solitary confinement (to reduce sensory input and calm the patient down).

In the evening, police were called again, for unknown reasons. That’s when the tasering occurred.

The patient’s mother, Marijke Bos, found out about the incident a few days later during a visit on her son’s birthday. Her son had dark bruises under his eyes, several bruises on one of his hips and roughly thirty small taser-related lesions on his back. The patient had also been tasered on one of his feet.

The patient’s mother has filed several formal complaints.

The hospital staff reportedly is also extremely dismayed about the taser use.

Solitary confinement in itself can be damaging and can be seen as a human rights violation. Tasering a patient who already is in solitary confinement and clearly no danger to anyone else raises eyebrows, to put it mildly.

It seems to me that tasering in drive-stun mode is even worse than using a baseball bat to knock someone out as it deliberately causes pain, so it is more comparable to stabbing someone with a knife or throwing scalding water or oil.

The incident made me wonder about taser use on patients in other countries and I did a quick web search. It is not clear whether other reports of taser use on patients concern drive-stun mode or probe mode, but probe mode is the usual taser mode.

New Zealand police used a taser on a mentally ill man earlier this year as well and it was the country’s second case this year in which taser use against a mentally ill person was ruled (excessive and) unjustified:

“Police told the 21-year-old he would need to be strip searched, the man repeatedly refused to remove his clothes telling the officers he had a history of sexual abuse and didn’t feel comfortable being touched by males.”

In Britain, even taser use in general has turned out to concern mainly mentally ill persons, according to Home Office figures:

Taser use against patients in hospitals has already around in Britain for more than ten years:

The consensus appears to be that this is a big no-no:

I agree with Matilda MacAttram (director of Black Mental Health UK and writer of the above article in the Guardian) that there is no role for police in mental healthcare, just like police have no business in heart surgeries and appendectomies either.

See also this article:

What do I know about pain and suffering, you ask?

What do I know about pain and suffering, you ask?

In view of what I have been saying and will still write about little Charlie Gard’s situation and other topics in bioethics, I feel that it is justified when people ask what experience I have with pain and suffering in (physical) medical situations.

Here are answers.

Personally, I’ve been very lucky. I have a bunch of allergies, but none very serious, and the worst medical situations I’ve had were a traffic accident that led to a very serious concussion and a broken nose (in my teens) and pneumonia (in early 2017). I’ve also undergone a simple procedure to drain my sinuses (in my early 20s). Oh, and I have pigment dispersion syndrome, a fairly mechanical eye condition that is a high risk factor for glaucoma. I don’t have children of my own, by the way.

I was born in 1960 – I am a Libra – and am the eldest of three daughters; we are 3 years and 6 years apart (and a universe, it seems). My mother had a miscarriage after me, a baby boy who would have been called Paul, which is why the name of my teddy bear was Paul. (I didn’t name him.) Shortly after my birth or my sister’s birth – I don’t remember which it was; she told me about this much later – my mother found a lump in one of her breasts. She was told it was just a swollen milk gland and went on with her life.

There is a possibility that my mother was given DES (diethylstilbestrol) after that miscarriage. Both my sisters (and I) are cancer-free, to my knowledge. My sister has had two C-sections, however, and in theory, DES may have played a role in my mother’s illness, if it was given to her, though even then, it is only associated with a modestly increased risk of breast cancer.

(My other sister has no children either.)

As my mother’s was the only case of breast cancer in my maternal family that I am aware of, there clearly doesn’t seem to be a particular gene involved. My sisters and I have long passed the age at which my mother contracted breast cancer.

My mother had all her teeth removed surgically as was still often done in those days, after which she came home in an ambulance and spit a lot of blood into a bucket beside her bed. She had surgery for a large kidney stone which she got to take home in a little tube and which had caused a pain in her flank. I think that kidney surgery was in 1968.

(Off and on, you can hear from my phrasing how young I was at the time, how much or little I understood about what was going on.)

She became increasingly unwell and was unfortunately sent to physical therapy… sigh… because her cancer had already metastasised so much that it had gotten into her bones. She’d come home in incredible pain. I don’t remember what got “them” (whoever) to figure out that something else was going on.

The breast was surgically removed and the wound never healed, no matter how much ointment was applied. The cancer also affected my mother’s vocal chords; she told me that if she’d been for example a teacher, she would have needed surgery for that as well. She was treated by Dr Lokkerbol (who received training in the UK, by the way), underwent radiation (cobalt) and had some kind of chemo (not “real” chemo, but I can’t explain what wasn’t “real” about it, other than maybe it was less aggressive and didn’t make her go bald). It was (also) administered at home, by a nurse.

It was a slightly yellowish fluid that came in glass ampoules. It was not very stable and I’ve had to tell the pharmacy several times to return it when I could see that it had already gone bad (flocculation/crystallization). My mother’s white cells were monitored because the chemo made them go down and when the number of white cells declined too much, the administration of the chemo had to stop. This was the opposite of leukemia, my mother explained to me, because then you had too many white cells.

She had increasingly trouble walking, needed a cane, and in the end couldn’t even go to the bathroom unassisted. I remember helping her, holding her arm, steadying her, and wondering how my mother was feeling about her daughter helping her go to the bathroom. My mother had had a very happy childhood, but was raised in a fairly old-fashioned manner, after all. One did not talk about periods, for instance. They were a dark secret best kept to oneself. Sanitary napkins as big as diapers were provided and a special kind of (horrible) lined underwear, and that was that.

Also, my youngest sister almost died too in the meantime when her appendicitis was misdiagnosed as a bladder problem. That misdiagnosis is quite common, but if it hadn’t been for my father’s vigilance, my sister really might have died. Her fever ran up to nearly 42 degrees C and the hospital was cooling her with ice. They couldn’t operate, had to wait for my sister to stabilize first. I think my sister was 4 or 5 at the time. (Children visitors weren’t allowed on the ward, by the way.)

Anyway, I must have been in my 5th year in primary school (which has 6 years in total) when my mother became increasingly unwell as I was taking French conversation classes in our local city centre – my mother loved how the language sounded and loved saying mu-sjuh even though its proper pronunciation is muss-yuh – and I had to be taken there and collected again. I was able to finish the first year, but there was a second year, in my 6th year in primary school, from which I had to drop out pretty soon. Taking me to the language school and collecting me often was arranged in conjunction with hospital visits one way or another until that was no longer possible. (I later also sometimes or often accompanied my mother to the hospital shortly before she died, by the way. I had Wednesday mornings off in the school year in which my mother passed away. There were so many students that year that the school was forced to introduce early and late classes.)

Meanwhile, our dog got cancer too and had to be put down. She was 6 months older than I was.

Then one day, my mother’s favourite sister stopped by. She sat on the wooden bench in our large kitchen, in a serious conversation with my mother. I don’t remember whether she was on her way to or on her way back from a hospital visit. I think she was on her way home, though, and had decided to stop in on my mother to tell her about how she’d been bleeding. The bus she took passed our house and the bus stop was very close to our home. My mom’s sister – my aunt – died shortly after that visit. That must have been cervical or uterine cancer.

During one of her many hospital stays, my mother said no and put her foot down when they wanted to place her in the room in which her sister had died. (My mother had also said no and put her foot down when the kindergarten teachers wanted to keep me for another year because I was so young, at 5. I went on to be the youngest in my class and the one with the best grades for 6 consecutive years in primary school, so thanks, Mams.)

Meanwhile, one of my mother’s older brothers had been diagnosed with a brain tumour after he developed problems with an arm. The doctors didn’t tell him at the time; presumably the tumour was inoperable. I don’t know which symptoms that eventually resulted in, but when the decline came, it happened fast. He passed away shortly after my mother, who passed away in her sleep at home in February 1975, my dad and one of my mother’s brothers sitting next to her, my dad asleep at the time, but awoken by my uncle. My mother was only 42.

Everybody responds to these situations in their own way. There is no right or wrong about it. My mother’s family seemed to deal with her death in their characteristic cold manner (stiff upper lip). One evening, I found them arguing outside with my dad over the exact wording in an announcement that had already appeared in a newspaper (so the arguing served no purpose, in my eyes). It got too much for my dad (complete lack of stiff upper lip) who literally ran off, onto the moors behind our home. I shouted at my aunt and uncle that they had to understand that the man had just lost his wife, for crying out loud, and went to retrieve my dad. I was angry with my relatives, back then, but I can see now that they merely were dealing with the situation in the only way they knew. My dad was often angry with the medical profession. It wasn’t always justified – sometimes it was just his powerlessness talking – but in some cases, he certainly did have a point.

Both my parents had little education beyond primary school, by the way.

The farm on which my mother grew up.

By contrast, my mother’s mother passed away at 91 or thereabouts, after these three of her children had died. She had already lost several children at very young ages as well as her husband. I have a lot of my grandmother in me, which is only becoming clearer as I am getting older. It is a very interesting observation, one that makes me smile and makes me feel more connected with her, and with my family in general.

My other experiences with medical situations are fairly “remote”.

My mother’s remaining sister passed away of stomach cancer, but she was in her 80s then. Stomach cancer is often diet-related, so I understand. One of her remaining brothers passed away from lung cancer in his 70s. He’d been exposed to a lot of dust and had been a smoker (cigars, though he probably smoked cigarettes when he was younger). He also was incredibly stubborn. (I can’t help but wondering whether he perhaps was also allergic to wheat, barley and rye, which can cause lung problems, and which wouldn’t have helped. Besides cancer, allergies seem to run on my mother’s side of the family.) The remaining brother passed away “from old age” as far as I know. I wasn’t around for any of that as, again, I was out of the country.

My father was diagnosed with pneumonia in October last year, and with lung cancer in November; he passed away shortly before Christmas, and was 83 at the time. I wasn’t around for that either.

I know that one of my French-born cousins on my father’s side contracted lung cancer in her 50s or so and passed away shortly after that, leaving a child of only 12-years old or so behind. My cousin’s husband had died shortly before her. Another cousin then adopted the child, bless him.

I know of and knew 5 or 6 women in science who fell ill in their 50s, were diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after. I’ve been to the homes of a few of them. A business partner contracted prostate cancer at an age much younger than usual, seemed cured and then succumbed after all. Dammit. He called me in 2010, and explained to me everything that had been going on and I am still grateful for and touched by the vulnerability he was willing to show during that conversation. (I wish I could have been there for him a little bit more than I was able to at the time.) I know one brilliant woman in science who was also a dedicated and talented modern dancer who very cruelly developed progressive MS and my heart bleeds for her as I am typing this. (This situation particularly makes me feel angry and powerless, by the way.)

I also used to have an older friend whose health started to falter when she was only in her 50s. She already needed a hip replacement then. During the surgery, the surgeon accidentally cut through a muscle, which was discovered during a second surgery after she had fallen and needed surgery to repair the damage of the fall. After that, she was so happy she could walk normally again. (I can still see her in her flat, proudly and delightedly showing me that she could walk again, walking back and forth. Look, look! “Ik loop weer als een kieviet!”) She later contracted two kinds of cancer (one of which was leukemia) and passed away too, but I was not around for that. (Her partner, whom I also used to know, developed cancer of the esophagus. He passed away at home, made comfortable with a lot of morphine, his feet being massaged at the time. Some things were definitely done right in that case. I was not around, not in the country.)

Yes, I also know a few people who had their gallbladders removed, usually very urgently, but that’s different. There are other people, of course, who have crossed my path and who have experienced medical tribulations – one of them a Dutchwoman in France who beat a very bad cancer prognosis – but I can’t really claim them as part of their life. And of course, there are other kinds of pain and suffering, but I am leaving that for another time (see this post).

Having seen my mother suffer for so long, witness her be in pain for so many years, made me immensely relieved for her when she passed away (though for myself I despaired). I therefore must always be aware of having an emotional response when someone is seriously ill. I do not believe in extending life artificially as long as possible in all situations. It can be very selfish and be the expression of a consumerist view of medicine. Doctors are not omniscient and omnipotent. They are mere humans, just like all of us. Nature – life – is still the real head honcho, when it comes to the crunch.

(But, I’d probably have loved to be a veterinarian, I realized late in life. A false belief that I was squeamish – am not – and couldn’t handle the sigh of blood – I sure can – kept me out of it. When I was volunteering in wild-bird rehab and they called me inside after someone else had fainted, that slowly became clear to me and I did explore that. So I can probably put myself in the shoes of the doctor somewhat and for instance understand that what may come across as arrogance in doctors often isn’t. This does not mean that I don’t get ticked off at physicians who really are out of line, of course.)

So like I said, I have to be aware of my own feelings (a gut response which I may not always notice right away) and therefore I try to apply logical reasoning – which can come across as very cold – as much as possible. That is also the way to arrive at just (fair, unbiased) conclusions and definitions that hold up regardless of feelings or believes and protects against abuse and arbitrariness. It has a highly clarifying function. It makes things a lot clearer. It is also highly practical.

There was a time when we pointed the fingers at doctors and accused them of playing God when they helped patients stay alive. Now we’re often quick to accuse doctors of playing God when doctors don’t want to force anyone who isn’t viable to stay alive. Technology is starting to make crucial differences. This leads to many very difficult questions about which we – preferably in a global consensus – have to make decisions. We need to start agreeing on what we do want to do and what we don’t want to do. We need good guidelines.

For the record: Notably my middle sister will remember a different past. She had a persistent skin (yeast?) infection as a newborn, I think, but as I was 3 at the time, can I really have remembered that? May it have concerned my youngest sister around whose birth I was sent to stay with an aunt and uncle? I remember that I was not sure if she was real, at first, as a newborn baby. (She looked like a doll!)

But my middle sister also had children’s diseases that my youngest sister and I did not contract. She experienced mumps, whereas we all fell ill with measles at the same time. She also was ill with jaundice as a child (presumably due to some kind of liver infection; the common Dutch phrase was “yellow paint”). Both my sisters got chickenpox as children, which I had when I was in my early 20s. And, my middle sister was sent away to stay with an aunt and uncle around the time of my mother’s death; she once told me that herself and I had not remembered that. So her memories are very different.

That must have been very hard for her because I do remember that when she was 4 or 5, she insisted on seeing our paternal granddad before he died, tubes and all, in hospital, and fought to be kept out of school that afternoon. (None of us three had been close to him; I don’t think he was a pleasant man at all.)

We all deal with pain, suffering and death in our own way. There is no “right” way or “wrong” way.

Both my sisters saw my mother after she had passed away, at the funeral home. I never saw her dead. I didn’t want to. I wanted to preserve the memory I had from when she was still alive. She used to sing often. and was often pictured with a very broad smile in various photos before she became really ill.

My response to Dr Seidel’s post on the BMJ blog (Baby genome screening—paving the way to genetic discrimination?)

I just submitted the following comment, here:
http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/07/05/markus-g-seidel-baby-genome-screening-paving-the-way-to-genetic-discrimination/
It is still in moderation. has been accepted. Yes, it was far from flawless – I wrote most of it at the spur of the moment – but I think that what I mean is clear enough. I have done some editing in the version below.

Dear Dr Seidel, thank you for making these very important points.

I am taking the opportunity to offer a few suggestions for discussion and invite more views on these issues. Some of what I write below only emerged during the writing of this response and may not be watertight. Can you withhold initial judgement, think along with me and see it as an exercise in exploring the various angles?

But first of all, please forgive me my shortcomings; I phrase various concepts differently than you do as my background is not in medicine and I tend to shy away from jargon. Also, what I say is not limited to newborns, but that will be obvious to this audience. The principles largely remain the same, whether we are talking about a pre-embryo, a fetus or a newborn, and whether I call them person, individual or child. (Legally, this is currently much more complex, as you know.) My focus in this discussion does not extend to persons beyond the age of majority (likely not even beyond 8 or 10, in practice) and I am also keeping the concept of euthanasia out of the discussion even though it is related. Worst of all, I throw all techniques related to genetic material into one big pot because it enables me to see the bigger picture better.

I write from my own perspective of an opinionated white woman in the west, but when I say “we”, my intention is to refer to the human species. People from other cultures will undoubtedly spot biases in my western views; I would like those people to point out those biases.

You ask whether genome screening for newborns will pave the way to genetic discrimination. You also raise the question of the interpretation (and reliability) of such data and you have privacy concerns.

With regard to the latter, I think that we will slowly have to accept that the digital age comes with the loss of privacy in many ways. That does not have to be as dramatic as it sounds. Privacy is a changing concept anyway, which also has a cultural angle to it. The realization that people from different generations and from different cultures have slightly different views on what privacy is may add some perspective that can make us breathe easier. So we should probably become more relaxed about the loss of privacy as we knew it and focus more on preventing and ameliorating potential negative consequences of that loss, if any. The real issue is not the loss of privacy, but abuse of personal information.

In my opinion, what we need to do is ensure non-discrimination and make certain that genomic information will only be used to improve any individual’s (medical) care. (The data can become part of studies, anonymized or not; we also need to redefine consent, but I am going to leave that out of this discussion too.) In other words, genomic information must only be used to enable and allow human beings to flourish.

Even a word like “flourish” or “thrive” is highly ambiguous, though. I mean it in a non-materialistic manner, whereas some others do not at all. Perhaps I can break it all down into stages to show what I mean within this specific context. Perhaps I can break it down to show what I mean within this context.

You mention the Hippocratic Oath, which some define as “Do no harm”. Harm is another concept that we don’t agree on yet and that we – therefore? – haven’t been able to define well.

I think that we need to start applying the principle of non-discrimination to all new human life. I believe that we should consider every human individual is just as valuable – in a non-materialistic manner – as every other human individual.

When I toss this around, I run into a peculiar dilemma. While I must see a deaf or a blind person (as an example) as equally valuable as a hearing or sighted person, I cannot accept it when a hearing or sighted person is deliberately made (permanently) deaf or blind, for instance during a mugging or a work-related accident. This also applies with regard to so-called augmentations. I cannot take a human being against his or her wishes and carry out a nose reconstruction or even inject botox. That makes me realize that harm done to a human appears to be any interference or change that occurs against that human being’s wishes and is implemented by someone else.

For now, I have to limit this to physical changes because the area of psychological changes is too complicated. (Just think of schools; we do not take bad teachers to court for being bad teachers, but we do take bad surgeons and physicians to court for being bad doctors, also because the evidence related to the latter is often much clearer.) Physical interference that occurs against a person’s wishes can of course also result in psychological changes, but that does not actually matter for the concept of harm within this context.

The next problem I then run into is the fact that particularly an embryo, fetus or newborn has a very limited ability to express wishes, but and that also holds for young children. If I try to put myself in the shoes of a child, however, it becomes possible to define harm in spite of that limitation.

This – putting themselves in the shoes of the child, as adults – is what parents, guardians and other carers do all the time, of course. They sometimes have to make the decisions for the child and express the child’s wishes for the child, as if they were the child, using the knowledge they have as adults, knowledge that the child will have in the future but does not possess yet.

So, lLet’s step into a child’s feet, then. It is hard to imagine a sick or injured child that would want to get sicker and sicker and sicker or want to have a permanently festering wound resulting from an injury caused by a fall. So it is fair to say that anything we do toward remedying such a situation is in accordance with the child’s wishes, in essence, even in cases in which the child cannot even say “please make the pain go away”. It is what the child would want if it possessed the knowledge and abilities of an adult.

So, the first step in part of enabling a human – a child – to flourish is to attempt to prevent any deterioration of the child’s health.

We may have to start agreeing that this cannot be considered harm within this context, even if the chance of success is small, certainly in cases for which there are no alternative remedies. We may even have to decide that doing nothing constitutes harm when there is still an option of doing something.

If a child has appendicitis, a surgeon will have to cut into the child’s abdomen in order to remove the appendix to prevent deterioration of the child’s health or even death. Strictly speaking, cutting into a child’s abdomen constitutes inflicting an injury, but in this case, as it is done with the intention of preventing greater harm, namely the deterioration of the child’s health, it does not constitute harm within this context we do not see it as harm. (This may be be an example of where I display a western bias?)

(Of course, we can still take the surgeon to court if his or her work fails to meet professional standards, but that is a different type of harm. We certainly need professional standards.)

We can also take a child to the dentist and the dentist may have to inflict some discomfort in order to prevent deterioration of the child’s health.

By contrast, we should not, however, drag a child along kicking and screaming to have its ears pierced as this is not done with the aim of preventing a deterioration of health. (If a child asks to have its ears pierced, there is a clear wish on the side of the child.)

Note that the intention matters. When a procedure is carried out with the intention of wanting to prevent deterioration of health, we never have 100% certainty that the intended result will be achieved. (This may have implications for how we think about practices carried out in other cultures. Keep this at the back of your mind. Our own western views are not the only views that hold value.)

The second step vital part of enabling a human being to flourish is to do everything we can within a daily-life context to allow that person to thrive on the basis of the person’s given physical (and mental) situation.

We send children to playgrounds to let them play with other children and test their physical limits, we feed them, clothe them and provide shelter as well as love and all those other concepts that are hard to measure but easy to grasp. In essence, this is no different for children who are, say, blind or deaf or who have Down syndrome.

The BBC news site just highlighted a very nice albeit exceptional example of what I mean by flourishing within this context: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/m…

To do everything we can to allow that child to thrive is also required for children who are born with a medical condition that requires some form of medication or extra nutritional care to prevent deterioration of health. This, I think, is where standard genomic testing of newborns can play a pivotal role. These days, parents still too often have to conclude that something is seriously genetically wrong with their child on the basis of the deterioration of the child’s health, which in some cases means that irreversible damage has already occurred to the child’s health.

So, failure to provide such testing (screening) from the point in the future at which we know how to do and use this properly and reliably could perhaps also be seen as harm as it could lead to the preventable deterioration of a child’s health and would not encourage the child to thrive.

The third step next level within this context of enabling someone to flourish – and this is where it gets even trickier – is interfering with the child’s genetic make-up.

We may feel that the child is flawed, whereas the child is actually viable and does will not suffer a deterioration of health or be at great risk of certain complications if we allow it to live. At the moment, we often prevent such a child from coming into the world. This is where, I think, we need to draw the line and have to take a step back. It is a discriminatory practice because it appears to express a value judgement.

I also think that because of limited resources, we may need to approach this in a stepped manner.

What I mean is that if we initially limit techniques like CRISPR and gene therapy to all situations in which a resulting child would have “a life not worth living”, then we might have a fairly just and affordable way to start implementing CRISPR, gene therapy and anything else that may come along. Once we’ve done that, we can slowly start to take it forward, extend it to other conditions. The costs of such techniques will come down. and if we start with rare diseases that are currently incurable, we also limit the initial costs of implementation.

The loss of privacy may actually become an advantage because openness makes it also much easier to detect abuse of information and to safeguard against discrimination.

One of the reasons why I strongly believe that we need to start implementing non-discrimination for all new human life is the following. Once humans start interfacing with technology, other so-called impairments – which are currently often either biased opinions or restrictions imposed by society – cease to be impairments, taking away much of the motivation for “correcting” these individuals.

Moreover, not only do we – the human race as well as society – need diversity, we may have future needs for abilities of which we currently don’t realize that some people possess them. Those may well be people who are currently considered “impaired” or “flawed”. Junk DNA was once considered just that, too.

As I already indicated, we need a workable definition of what constitutes a life not worth living and once we have one (I may have found one, by the way, based on the principle of humanity), we may end up concluding that these are the primary cases in which we actually have a duty to interfere with the child’s genetic make-up.

So I agree with you that we have to exercise restraint, in spite of all the enormously exciting developments we currently see around us. Discrimination is not the only concern and neither are interpretation and costs. We don’t know all the possible consequences yet of the application of any of those new developments, even if we think we do.

We have made many decisions in the past without asking questions that now are so blatantly obvious in hindsight. Did nobody foresee that insecticides might also affect bees and birds and amphibians, to name just one example of a past mistake, albeit a highly significant one that now also affects human fertility?

We have another reason to take it slow, namely the fact that laws and regulations lag behind, evolve in response to arising situations in real life, and rarely anticipate on what may happen in the future. Legal professionals, too, tend to think conservatively and in a geographically limited manner. It’s probably the UN and WHO who should start taking the lead in this area, and guide us into the future. Do they need a push? Should we apply pressure?

Because perhaps more than anything else, we need to work toward reaching a global consensus (including legislation) on such important matters, irrespective of how challenging and impossible that may seem. It was also once completely unimaginable that we’d have humans land on the moon, so if we did that, then we can accomplish so much more than we think we can.

How do we approach the future?

In the science, health and environment section of thehindu.com, an article appeared under the heading “Do we understand the genome well enough to let Big Pharma jump into it?”.

I left the following brief reply.

You make important points.

Markus G. Seidel, who works at the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine of Medical University Graz in Austria, just wrote something similar on the site of the BMJ, with regard to babies. He asks whether genome screening for newborns will pave the way to genetic discrimination. He too raises the question about interpretation (and reliability) of such data. He also discusses privacy issues.

http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/07/05/markus-g-seidel-baby-genome-screening-paving-the-way-to-genetic-discrimination/

But I wanted to write more…

With regard to the latter, I think that humanity will slowly have to accept that the digital age comes with the loss of privacy in many ways. Privacy is a changing concept and there also is a cultural angle to it, so people from different generations and from different cultures have slightly different views on what privacy is. We probably should become more relaxed about the loss of privacy as we knew it and focus more on preventing and ameliorating potential negative consequences.

In my opinion, what we need to do is ensure non-discrimination and ensure that genomic information will only be used to improve any individual’s (medical) care. In other words, genomic information must only be used to enable and allow human beings to flourish. All human beings. In a non-materialistic way.

(Note that this is not the same as eradicating everything we may not like. But we seem to have a tendency to want to do that, unfortunately, and we need to curb that urge. We need a great deal of diversity to function well as a species and as a society, for many reasons. Good and bad cannot exist without each other – as cheesy as it may sound. There simply is too much we don’t know yet, and we therefore cannot foresee all possible consequences of everything we do. Eradicating everything that seems bad to us may be bad too.)

That will require two things: good legislation and regulations and a global consensus on these issues.

Particularly the latter is a major challenge. That is why we need to discuss these topics broadly and entice people to move out of their mental comfort zone, allowing them to explore other people’s views without instantly rejecting them. Our own views aren’t the only valid or even valuable views, but they tend to feel that way to us.

Legislation, however, also has a problem as it currently tends to display a big lag relative to what’s technologically possible. It does not anticipate (much), but responds after what is happening in practice forces it to respond. Also, legal scholars still tend to contemplate situations and consequences with regard to their own jurisdictions only.

So it looks like there is a great need for discussions pervaded by a spirit of tolerance (the willingness to step out of one’s mental comfort zone and listen to people from other cultures and generations) and a forward-thinking attitude.

By “forward-thinking”, I don’t mean “blindly embracing everything science and technology have to offer” because in the past, we’ve often forgotten to ask many questions we should have asked. That, for example, appears to have happened when we embraced pesticides. They seemed such a good thing, initially, that we never considered their obvious potential for bad.

Do you agree or do you see it differently? Do you think we also need to change big pharma, and if so, in which ways, and how could we approach that?

PS
I write from my own perspective of an opinionated white woman in the west without ties to big pharma.

Anna Marie Marshall case – 2

This is the case of a homeless woman in York who had been found with an injured gull on a leash. An arrest warrant has been issued against the woman, who may not be well, so I understand.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15391489.Woman_found____walking_injured_seagull_on_lead____in_York/

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15411980.Woman_wanted_on_warrant_over_seagull_allegations/

From the above page, I also understand that one of the charges against her – and likely the most serious one – is that she allegedly caused the injuries to the gull.

I find that unlikely. I have been lucky enough to have volunteered at a world-renowned wild-bird rehabilitator in the US (Lee Fox). It normally takes at least two people to hold and examine an injured bird. Putting a leash on a healthy bird, single-handedly?

Gulls are pretty feisty and far from cuddly. I find it very unlikely that this woman would have been able to capture and keep this gull with her if the animal had not already been hurt (badly).

Unless they have experience with birds, even regular veterinarians generally don’t know how to handle birds (so again, unless this bird was already injured considerably, this woman very likely would never have been able to keep the bird with her). Even a pigeon – usually much calmer than a gull – can be very hard to catch. Even a non-flighted pigeon can be very hard to catch if you don’t know what you’re doing (and even sometimes if you know what you’re doing).

I am trying to find out more, am contacting veterinary practices in York to see which one received the gull and what the nature and extent of its injuries were.

I have been in touch with her solicitor on Twitter, but he is not allowed to tell me much, of course, and I can only applaud his reticence. I’ve also left a message with an organization for the homeless in York, and one or two other places.

My sole interest is helping this woman if I can. Because this case is not about a healthy woman purposefully hurting a bird, by the sound of it.

I think it’s probably fairly disgusting that the police officers or prosecutor in question added the charge that the woman was yelling at the officers. In this case, that’s likely comparable to charging someone in a diabetic crisis with public intoxication (“drunk and disorderly”).

Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe the woman had a big shovel and suddenly stormed down Parliament Street, hit a few gulls, grabbed one and put it on a leash just to, say, re-enact a scene from a film with someone else recording video on a mobile to put on social media. That’s why I am trying to find more information.

I am not saying that the woman has not hurt the bird (as birds have much less dense bones than mammals and have a very different respiratory system, it’s probably easy to injure a bird accidentally), but by the sound of it, it clearly was not her intent to hurt the bird. She may have found the bird and intended to look after it. If she’d taken it to a veterinarian, she might have been turned away by reception staff. (Maybe she even had taken it to a vet practice. I don’t know.)

Neither can it be ruled out at this point that someone else put the injured animal on a leash and pressed the leash into her hands, told her to look after the bird. (That’s the sort of thing that goes on in some towns.)

Is there any CCTV of what happened?

If the woman had been in a different town or had run into different police officers, the case might not even have existed. It sounds like a waste of human resources and the taxpayers’ money.

Let’s ask this. If someone had found an injured gull and put the animal in a box in order to take it to a vet, had run into and yelled at a police officer who wanted to take the box away because he or she thought that the box contained stolen goods, would that person have been charged with the three counts Anna Marie Marshall has been charged with, even though technically, the exact same things would have happened, but with a different person?

(Generally speaking, whether you put a gull on a leash or in a box makes little difference, legally.)

Why do I bother? Because in my nearly thirteen years in Britain, I have seen a heck of a lot of injustice and it makes me sick. If I can do a little bit to decrease the injustice in Britain a little bit, I will.

(But I am no longer naive enough to think that the masses in Britain want anything else other than the misery they already have, because misery – like beauty – is in the eyes of the beholder. The British actually like most of their misery, it seems.)

In the town where I am based, you could kill a hundred gulls, so to speak, for instance with the sole purpose of annoying a nature lover, and police here would very likely merely consider it hilarious, also because lots of people actually complain about no more than gulls being gulls and calling out while flying around. Gulls have just as much right to be on the planet – or more as birds have been on the planet so much longer than humans. That’s all just as bad, or sad, but it shows you how unequally “justice” is meted out in Britain.

If anyone has any helpful feedback, please use the form below. Thanks.

 

 

Playing God

There was a time when doctors were being accused of playing God when they helped patients stay alive. Now they’re accusing doctors of playing God when doctors don’t want to force a baby who isn’t viable to stay alive. (Alive?)

There is a lot wrong in the medical world. I agree. And I too have had to tell doctors things they didn’t know about although they’re supposed to be the experts and I admit that it used to surprise me. Discovering that I sometimes knew more than the doctors I went to for advice.

I don’t have the impression that the Charlie Gard case is one of those.

Charlie is being abused, by having been forced to stay alive this long. He is NOT fighting.

After having been forced him to stay alive – against nature – for so long, the decent option is now to let him have that experimental treatment, as I’ve said in a previous post.

But what will happen if the treatment has no effect? There will be more accusations, more lawsuits and more media drama because this stopped being about Charlie Gard a long time ago.

They will then fight to continue to keep him on a ventilator. (The disagreement in court yesterday about what one of the parents apparently had said three months ago seems to indicate that, along with the statement that the parents will continue to fight for the baby as long as he continues to be on a ventilator.)

That said, there are no 100% guarantees in medical matters. Sometimes, someone does wake from a coma twenty years or so later. True. But someone who ends up in a coma used to be viable. That makes a big difference. It means there was a well-functioning body with the healing abilities that entails.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/charlie-gard-army-high-court-medical-experts-great-ormond-street-hospital-murder-doctors-lying-a7840236.html

“We will not be silenced,” they chanted.

Like I wrote above, this ceased to be about a little baby a long time ago. (I had that feeling from the beginning but I was not sure about it, and kept my opinion to myself until very recently.)

This is just as consumerist as wanting to design your own babies according to specs.

I hope that I am wrong about this. I do. I hope that they’ll take Charlie to the States and that a miracle occurs and he’ll grow into a strapping young man. But that’s not going to happen and I am afraid for little Charlie who is denied a say in this and who will also be denied a say if the treatment has no or no significant effect.

I heard a very significant mistake by an American news anchor yesterday.  She talked about the current “treatment”. But Charlie Gard is not being “treated” and the legal proceedings are not about GOSH wanting to stop a treatment, which some people apparently seem to think.

Read this, too (GOSH statement):
https://t.co/X9WHHjhl3u

Read also this (opinion piece in The Guardian):
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/09/the-guardian-view-on-charlie-gard-reason-and-unreason?CMP=soc_3156

Also, there are huge differences between Charlie Gard’s situation and the situation of Ashya King and his parents, as I have mentioned before.

See: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/judgment-and-family-court-orders-in-the-matter-of-ashya-king/

Ashya King is healthy now.

Charlie Gard matter in court again

Is all of this still about Charlie Gard, actually?

Or is this an expression of a consumerist view of children?

Been wondering about that for a while now…

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/10/health/charlie-gard-new-hearing/index.html

The parents seem to claim that Charlie is “fighting”. But if he was, he wouldn’t require life support. He is being kept alive artificially.

Charlie “fighting” would be to take him off life support and finding him able to live on his own, surprising them all.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/10/charlie-gard-key-questions-answered

It’s true, though, that if this child had been in the US, the experimental treatment would already have started and doctors would have a better idea of how it would affect the child.

With the case having been dragged through the courts for so long, and the postponements in terminating life support and allowing the child a peaceful passing, it’s now becoming more logical to allow the kid the treatment, if only because he’s been forced to stay alive so much longer now and would already have passed away if it hadn’t been for the legal battle.

If this news article is correct, though, then the parents’ battle is not about what is best for Charlie, by the sound of it:

http://www.wxyz.com/news/national/baby-charlie-gards-parents-storm-out-of-court-hearing

“Yates interrupted Francis as he said that the parents had said they would not want to prolong Charlie’s life in its present state, only if there was hope of improvement. “I never said that!” she exclaimed from her seat behind her barrister.”

Let’s see if I can find this back in Joshua Rozenberg’s tweets. Yes. Though he does not specify what the disagreement was about.

 

Nature itself considers Charlie Gard absolutely not viable. That is a very strong clue. Nature does its best to limit lives not worth living as much as possible.

Forcing Charlie Gard to stay alive is like insisting on having a purple parrot if its natural color is green and the other color goes with, say, severe liver disease. That’s not about what’s best for the parrot.

(I apologize to those who feel hurt by putting it this way. Maybe I should add that I had a green parrot for 21 years and loved her very dearly.)

How to deal with British police

Essentially, you don’t. You avoid them as much as you can because in Britain, you must consider police your enemy. They are not on your side. They are on their own side.

(Note: Anything I say on this page won’t stop me from, say, buying donuts for random police officers when they’ve all been called back from leave and are working very long days out on the streets. I do my best to see them as individual people.)

The only good reason for going to a police station in Britain is when you need to do that to be able to make an insurance claim.

Police in Britain stopped investigating crimes against individuals at least 10 years ago because they lack the resources to do so. The only crime against an individual that they are still bound to look into is when that individual has been murdered or if the individual is a supermarket owner or the like they like and someone has stolen a sandwich because he or she was hungry and was, say, caught red-handed or recorded on CCTV.

Other than that, forget it. That does not have to leave you stranded in all cases in which you’d normally expect to be able to get assistance from the police officers whose salaries you pay for through your council tax, after all.

Below are some tips, first for if you are a crime victim and second for if police are targeting you, for instance, because you are a crime victim.

Here is the GOLDEN RULE:

If police officers knock on your door, never ever open the door. Under no circumstances.

(You can still talk with them through the closed door, if you feel that it’s useful or required.)

1. Are you the victim of a crime?

Unless you need to do this for the sake of an insurance claim, do not go to the police. If you go to the police, the officers may tell you that they will use the information you give them as intelligence (though they won’t tell you that they are more likely to use it against you than against the perpetrator of the crime(s) you are reporting).

In almost all cases, they will also tell you to go to your council (civic offices) and to your GP. Don’t take it personally when they do this, even though it may sound like they are suggesting that you need mental health assistance. (After all, how on earth can a GP help solve a burglary, for instance?) They say this to just about everyone all over the country. It’s nothing personal; it‘s merely national policy.

You can investigate and try to stop crimes having been or being perpetrated against you but you have to proceed very carefully.

  • What you need to do first of all is print several copies of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Tuck one away in each of your bags or suit pockets.
  • Next, you write a letter to your local MP and any other politicians and/or journalists worth contacting. You explain to them what happened or is happening (the crime), in no more than one or two sentences, such as “My home was broken into” or “My daughter is being stalked. This has been going on for two years and last week the stalker broke into her home”. Then you write that you “will be approaching persons and taking actions for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime, pursuant to and in compliance with the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 1, subsection 3, sub a.” and that you are sending this letter to him or her for his or her information. Send this letter or these letters by Special Delivery. Yes, that will cost you a few bucks but it’s worth it.
  • If the MP or anyone else you wrote to then asks or tells you to go to the police, ask the person in question to come with you.
  • Use Word or any other program to type up the following text: “Pursuant to and in compliance with the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 1, subsection 3, sub a, I am approaching you for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime.”
  • Print several copies of that text and always have them with you during your crime investigation. Before you say anything else, say this and hand the printout to anyone you want to speak with in relation to the crime in question.
  • Also begin all your e-mails with that sentence if the e-mail is sent for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime.
  • Remain reasonable at all times. That means, do not behave as if you are a police officer, do not get rude and do not lose your temper. You can certainly be firm. You are standing up for your rights. That is perfectly normal in many other countries and it’s a cry and shame that police in Britain don’t help you protect yours.
  • Never undertake any of your crime investigation activities on your own, but always ensure that you have at least two witnesses, not from your family, but perhaps a colleague from work, a fellow member of a sports club you belong to or a neighbour or a client.
  • If you do go to police, tell them as little as possible. They will use anything you report to them as “intelligence” and while they may inform you of that, what they won’t do is let you know that they may well use any information you give them against you. Police officers may act very friendly and reassuring, and talk about the action they will take, but when they do, they are usually just lying to you, unfortunately.
  • The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 1, subsection 3, sub b also means that it is very good (essential) to know the nature of the crime you are investigating, in legal terms. Look up which law applies to what happened, and why what someone did or does was or is a crime according to the law. You can go to the CAB or any other advice organisation, make some calls, see solicitors for a free half-hour consultation, drop in on a law clinic from your local law school and of course research it online and in books.

2. Are you being targeted by police?

British police officers these days seem to go after just about any person that they perceive as easy prey for their arrest (and prosecution) records and whose name and address they have. This could be someone who is probably poor or lower-class, someone who they suspect has a mental health problem and also someone who lives on his or her own or will likely only have kids in the house. So that there won’t be a partner who says “wait a minute!” and they only have to deal with one adult who police officers think will be intimated. Police officers know very well what effect they have on normal citizens and they exploit it when it serves them.

They also are more likely to go after people they don’t like, such as people who report serious crimes and are inexperienced enough to keep asking police officers what they are doing about it, particularly if the person lives on his or her own or will likely have only kids at home.

The problem with reporting a crime is that in the process, you give police officers a lot of information about yourself. They have your name and address now and know what you look like. By contrast, they very likely do not know the identity of the person who committed the crime or is committing the crimes you are reporting. They do now know also some of your personal circumstances, such as that you just broke off your relationship, got fired, just started a new job, whether you rent or own your home and things like that.

If you become the victim of a crime, no matter what cause of action you take (go to the police and/or investigate yourself), it raises the probability that police will start targeting you.

Under no circumstances report a crime and then keep calling to ask what the police officers are doing about it, even if a police officer has told you to do so. (Don’t investigate and report on your investigations either, not even if they have specifically asked you to do so.) All of this is bound to annoy them so much that you may well find them knocking on your door on Sunday morning at 7 am, when you innocently open the door and then find the door slammed into your face and yourself crushed onto the floor and arrested, your kids watching scared and helpless.

Unfortunately, that is the reality in Britain. It happened to Michael Doherty, for instance.

If you’re a woman, it may be more likely that police officers will call the local mental health hospital behind your back and suggest that you are mentally unwell. They may also pay your employer a visit and anyone else who suggesting to that you are not well in the head may disadvantage you.

That too is the reality of Britain today.

Do not open the door if police officers (are targeting you and) knock on your door. You do not have to open the door if police officers knock on your door, no matter what they tell you (with very few exceptions and in those cases, it makes no difference whether you open the door or not, so, don’t). That’s right.

Police officers can sound very convincing when they tell you all sorts of bullshit. Some of them are genuinely convinced that they know the law because they have this law book specifically for police in which they can look things up. If it says anything that does not suit them but would be to your advantage, they won’t tell you that. It will almost never come back to bite them anyway. In practice, police officers in Britain rarely have to adhere to the law, let alone administer it appropriately.

If you ever get arrested, don’t trust whoever shows up as duty solicitor either. He or she will not be interested in your rights. He or she will either want to get out of the police station as soon as possible or milk the circumstances for whatever reason. Of course, there are exceptions – GOOD and HONEST lawyers do exist; in fact, a few of your personal heroes may be lawyers – but under no circumstances assume that a duty solicitor will look out for you.

If you are investigating crime committed or being committed, someone may still call the police and say that you are harassing him or her. This is more likely if that person is the person who committed or has committed the crimes you are investigating, of course, because he or she knows that your powers are nowhere near those of police officers and may have more experience with police than you. He or she will want to make you go away and complaining about you is a possible approach to that.

That is particularly why you need to know what the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 1, subsection 3, sub a says so that you can say that and maybe even show the printout of that law. Do not count on a duty solicitor to do that for you!

The fact that you are investigating crime on your own already indicates that you are not a person in power, after all. It makes you easily dismissible in the eyes of the police and in the eyes of the duty solicitor. Stand your ground. Don’t let them walk all over you. (You were doing what police officers should be doing. It is not your fault that, as a rule, they no longer deal with crimes committed against individuals these days.)

Also, you have informed several persons such as for example your MP about what you were going to do and you have witnesses.

Last but not least, a bit of a warning. Shana Grice, a young woman who reported being stalked to police was accused by police of wasting police time police (and fined, I believe) before her stalker killed her. There are other women in Britain who were killed by their stalkers, and they too were often not taken seriously by police.

I know a woman who was in similar circumstances, in the Netherlands. Her ex-boyfriend started stalking her and strangled her almost to death one day. In stark contrast to British police, Dutch police did not dismiss her but were very helpful. They advised her to relocate to a town in which she did not know anyone so that her ex was least likely to look for her there.

She took the advice, even though it meant breaking off her Master’s. She moved to a town at quite a distance from where she used to be and also from where her family was, enrolled in a lower-level educational program, then enrolled in another Master’s and after that started a PhD track. She got that PhD and she’s also a mother now.

(He eventually tracked her down in her new town too, but it took him a long time, and by then, he was less angry. One of her house mates or neighbors found him on the doorstep one day, and convinced him to go back and leave the woman alone.)

If you are being stalked in a way that seriously worries you, do not investigate or try to stop it by yourself (and certainly don’t bother reporting it to British police, also because they are likely to inform your stalker of everything you told police, whether on purpose of accidentally). Do what Dutch police advised this young Dutchwoman.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to know any of the above.

If you do use any of the above, and you end up killed, stabbed, bullied, hacked, arrested or anything else that you would have preferred to avoid, then note that you cannot hold me liable for any of that. I am not a lawyer, certainly not within this context, and I am not in a position to shield you from all risk.

Like the woman I mentioned above – no, it wasn’t me; it concerns a much younger woman whose acquaintance I made when she was working on her PhD – I too have only very positive experiences with Dutch police, even in sensitive circumstances that could have easily created friction and for which the officers in question had no training. Hats off!

I have worked with Dutch police in a neighbourhood crime prevention initiative. I also have positive experiences with American police, but race riots broke out in the US city where I used to live only shortly after I left. As we all know, American police has its troubles too because there had been too many incidents in which innocent black persons were killed by police officers in that city.

I think such incidents are often the result of irrational fears on the side of the police officers who often work under a lot of tension. I have personally witnessed in the US that when I had to call police in highly suspicious circumstances, they seemed much more scared and nervous than I was (presumably because I was living in a Florida neighbourhood that didn’t have a good reputation at the time). They were also looking out for my safety extremely well and I noticed that with gratitude.

I wish I could be more positive about British police.

I post the following from the work of Dr Lorraine Sheridan, as this can be vital information to have.

Typology 4: Sadistic stalking (12.9%)

Characteristics

· victim is an obsessive target of the offender, and who’s life is seen as quarry and prey (incremental orientation)
· victim selection criteria is primarily rooted in the victim being:

(i) someone worthy of spoiling, i.e. someone who is perceived by the stalker at the commencement as being: – happy – ‘good’ – stable – content and
(ii) lacking in the victim’s perception any just rationale as to why she was targeted

· initial low level acquaintance

 · apparently benign initially but unlike infatuation harassment the means of intervention tend to have negative orientation designed to disconcert, unnerve, and ergo take power away from the victim

– notes left in victim’s locked car in order to unsettle target (cf. billet-doux of infatuated harassment)
– subtle evidence being left of having been in contact with the victim’s personal items e.g. rifled underwear drawer, re-ordering/removal of private papers, cigarette ends left in ash trays, toilet having been used etc.
– ‘helping’ mend victims car that stalker had previously disabled · thereafter progressive escalation of control over all aspects (i.e. social, historical, professional, financial, physical) of the victim’s life

· offender gratification is rooted in the desire to extract evidence of the victim’s powerlessness with inverse implications for his power => sadism
· additional implication => self-perpetuating in desire to hone down relentlessly on individual victim(s)
· emotional coldness, deliberateness and psychopathy (cf. the heated nature of ex-partner harassment)
· tended to have a history of stalking behaviour and the controlling of others · stalker tended to broaden out targets to family and friends in a bid to isolate the victim and further enhance his control
· communications tended to be a blend of loving and threatening (not hate) designed to de-stabilise and confuse the victim
· threats were either overt (“We’re going to die together”) or subtle (delivery of dead roses)
· stalker could be highly dangerous

– in particular with psychological violence geared to the controlling of the victim with fear, loss of privacy and the curtailment of her social world

· physical violence was also entirely possible

– especially by means which undermine the victim’s confidence in matters normally taken for granted e.g. disabling brake cables, disarming safety equipment, cutting power off

· sexual content of communications was aimed primarily to intimidate through the victim’s humiliation, disgust and general undermining of self-esteem
· the older the offender, the more likely he would have enacted sadistic stalking before and would not be likely to offend after 40 years of age if not engaged in such stalking before
· victim was likely to be re-visited after a seeming hiatus

Case management implications

· should be taken very seriously
· acknowledge from outset that the stalker activity will be very difficult to eradicate
· acknowledge that there is no point whatsoever in appealing to the offender – indeed will exacerbate the problem
· never believe any assurances, alternative versions of events etc. which are given by the offender
· however, record them for use in legal action later
· the victim should be given as much understanding and support as can be made available
· the victim should not be given false or unrealistic assurance or guarantees that s/he will be protected
· the victim should carefully consider relocation. Geographical emphasis being less on distance per se, and more on where the offender is least able to find the victim
· the police should have in mind that the sadistic stalker will be likely to:

(i) carefully construct and calculate their activity to simultaneously minimise the risk of intervention by authorities while retaining maximum impact on victim,
(ii) be almost impervious to intervention since the overcoming of obstacles provides
(iii) new  and potent means of demonstrating the victim’s powerlessness (ergo self-perpetuating) and,
(iiii) if jailed will continue both personally and vicariously with the use of a network.

http://www.le.ac.uk/press/ebulletin/archive/speaker_sheridan.html

http://www.le.ac.uk/ebulletin-archive/ebulletin/features/2000-2009/2007/07/nparticle.2007-07-17.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6300291.stm

http://www.le.ac.uk/press/stalkingsurvey.htm

Northern Ireland abortion refugees: Supreme Court — UK Human Rights Blog

R (o.t.a A and B) v. Department of Health [2017] UKSC 41, 14 June 2017 – judgment here. Sometimes The Law comes to the rescue. And by this I do not mean constitutional law versus populism or the rule of law versus raw-knuckled fighting. It just happens that, occasionally, litigation drawn from ordinary life encapsulates more political […]

via Northern Ireland abortion refugees: Supreme Court — UK Human Rights Blog

Prank, boredom or tardiness?

Yesterday, I found this note under my door. Is this a prank, evidence of boredom (komkommertijd bij de Engelse politie?) or does this inquiry relate to when I was attacked in July 2007?

Hint: I added two letters to the note.

I think it is a prank. First of all, the police forces here are stretched thin in many ways and the officers don’t have the time to go around inquiring randomly whether persons are fine. That makes no sense. They stopped investigating crimes against individuals ten years ago because they don’t have the resources. Their standard response when you report a crime – all over the country, not just in your own town – is that they will treat any information you give them as “intelligence” and then they refer you to the city council and your GP. (In practice, they tend to serve mostly as “citizen oppression officers”, unfortunately.)

Also, it just so happens that I stopped by at the police station only a few days ago, with my passport, to inquire about something in relation to an e-mail I’d had from my home country (someone had reported me missing after my e-mails stopped getting through to him) and the officer at the desk said that everything was fine.

Yes, I was attacked by five lads in July 2007, in an incident similar to two others that had just cost the lives of two Britons. (Thankfully, I didn’t know that at the time of the attack; a Briton in my home country later e-mailed me about it.) Local police (Hampshire Police) showed zero interest in what had transpired at the time, which is rather odd in view of the fact that they must have been aware of the other incidents. Or…?

It is hard to imagine them showing up 10 years later!

A while after the attack back then, via the Old Bailey, I got in touch with the widow of one of the other victims, which was probably good for both of us. After all, I merely had a mild concussion – two stones hit my head – and never lost consciousness so I was relatively fine. (I sustained a serious concussion in my teens as a result of two blows to my head during a traffic accident and those knocked me out good. I was carted off by ambulance then, so I knew it wasn’t as bad as that.)

When I found the lads sitting on a wall in front of my home a few days later, I called police in a bit of a panic, but then too, police, well, I guess were completely unaware of the other two incidents that had happened and cost lives? It is the only explanation that makes sense.

So, no, Hampshire Police officers don’t go around inquiring whether people are well, not even after a serious attack, and I am not on a first-name basis with anyone called William either.

So it must be another prank, from anonymous neighborhood folks. I get pranked a lot. Also by police.

(The latter isn’t something I can explain to people in my home country as it appears to be part of the quintessentially British makeup.)

Foreign criminals’ deportation scheme ruled unlawful — UK Human Rights Blog

R (Kiarie) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; R (Byndloss) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] UKSC 42 In a nutshell The Government’s flagship scheme to deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeals later was ruled by the Supreme Court to be incompatible with the appellants’ right to respect for […]

via Foreign criminals’ deportation scheme ruled unlawful — UK Human Rights Blog

Human rights for just a few, that’s discrimination. Human rights apply to all human beings.

It has just been the 6th anniversary of an important human rights case, that of Mark and Steven Neary. Steven, who is autistic, was detained in local authority care for over a year before his dad used the Human Rights Act to get him home. RightsInfo has made a powerful short film to mark the […]

via A powerful new human rights film  — UK Human Rights Blog

Abortion

Writing the first edition of my essay “We need to talk about this” – the second edition is in the works – forced me to think about issues I had never thought about before in great depth and I had to leave many of them untouched at the time.

For example, I am a feminist and I have always believed in a woman’s right to abortion. While I was considering how we could regulate the new eugenics, I ran into boundaries. It included having to think about how to fit abortion into the topic. That was a significant hurdle.

I was no longer able to say “of course women should be able to have abortions” – which I had always done in the past – but had to think about why and when they should, regardless of my own personal feelings. Because what I was writing about selecting pre-embryos and fetuses clashed with the general ideas that I had always entertained about abortion but had never examined in detail.

Legislation and protocols can sound very cold to people, but it’s not enough to just state something like “we think this is very very good” or “we think this is very bad”. That wouldn’t work in practice. If you want to make sure legislation is solid and leaves little room for abuse (deliberate misinterpretation), you end up with language that can come across as heartless. But that does not mean that the legislation (or protocol) is heartless or that the people who wrote it are!

It can be difficult to get that across, I have seen in various online comments (on for example the Groningen Protocol). It works the same way for traffic rules or rules for building skyscrapers. The law can’t just say something vague like “drivers should be careful” and “buildings should be safe” and leave it at that.

When Obamacare was introduced, a staunch Republican (and stauncher Libertarian) wrote to me that it was ridiculous that its legislation was taking up more than 2,000 pages or something like that. (Who would ever read that?)

I replied to him that I knew a jurist who works in precisely that area in the Netherlands and explained what that kind of legislation has to include. Fortunately, he listened to that explanation.

Unfortunately, I have found that even people who see themselves as the voice of reason (and sometimes as having absolute wisdom, too) aren’t always willing to listen to what someone “from the other side” is saying.

A certain brand of callousness

In my essay “We need to talk about this” I mention that I have on occasion been shocked by a certain brand of callousness that I have seen (too) often in Britain (both in the media and in real life). Here is one example of what I mean.

 

You can only justify such occurrences by applying a tweaked form of utilitarian reasoning. One person was suffering, but “wasn’t really harmed” and the number of people who were enjoying what was being done to George Cheese was greater than 1, hence these occurrences “increased overall happiness”.

The fact that utilitarianism was associated with the higher classes may have given this type of reasoning or events an unfortunate aura of “cleverness”. It could also explain why anyone who condemns the sort of things that were being done to George Cheese is seen by some as “naïve” and “not quite with it”.

Utilitarianism also attached little importance to individual persons’ rights. It would have stopped short from, say, stabbing someone like George Cheese as opposed to setting his clothes on fire and stuffing him into the trunk/boot of a car. This is the kind of background, I think, that enabled Simon Wright to say “It did not go too far.”

In reality, abuse targets like George don’t get to LIVE. All they are allowed to do is wait for their natural deaths. George Cheese said “FUCK THAT!” and stood up for himself in the only way he had left.

At least there is an inquest. That’s good.

 

 

Hormones and (mental and physical) health

For most women, PMS is an unpleasant but manageable part of their period. But for 5-8% of women (around 80,000 in the UK), their symptoms are so severe they can be fatal.

Laura experienced anxiety and panic attacks into her twenties, and was forced to temp because she couldn’t hold down a job. “Every month I’d get so tired I’d have to sleep 18 hours a day for three days. I started getting suicidal thoughts.”

She was suffering from Severe PMS or, as it is sometimes referred to in the UK, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The condition is recognised by the NHS.

“PMDD is actually the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of one type of Severe PMS,” says consultant gynaecologist Dr Nick Panay. The UK’s definition is slightly different. “‘Severe symptoms interfere with someone’s ability to function normally.”

This is an important article. Read it:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/82dcd957-fb96-422c-b037-ad2645d7d3b7

I mention something similar in my book “We need to talk about this” in relation to a woman whose child was taken from her womb because she was in advanced pregnancy and has bipolar disorder. Hormones can wreak havoc. Blame the hormones, not the women. Don’t punish the women. Support them.

I happen to know a highly intelligent and spunky woman with bipolar disorder. She has a PhD and her own business. She was hospitalized twice. Want to take a guess as to when that happened? Right. When she had her daughter – who is now an adult and doing fantastically well, I might add – and when she was going through menopause.

Cut people some slack. Don’t punish them for their conditions, certainly not when the condition is otherwise highly manageable and well-managed by the woman in question. Punishing someone with bipolar disorder for going through a rough patch is like punishing someone else for having a bad flu.

By the way, Italy has just introduced period leave for women. And in case that makes you wonder about this, the gender pay gap in Italy is lower than in quite a few other European countries.

It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with animals

From the description (6 May 2014):

Lesli Bisgould is Canada’s first animal rights lawyer. For ten years, she acted for individuals and organizations in a variety of animal-related cases in the only practice of its kind in the country. She has fought for the rights of students who objected to dissection in science class, for critics of facilities where animals are held captive, and for changes in the law to ameliorate the legal status of animals. Lesli is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law where she instructs a course on animals and the law. Lesli is the author of “Animals and the Law”, the only Canadian law text on the subject, published by Irwin Law. Lesli was the 2012 international law lecturer for Australian animal protection institute, Voiceless – she undertook a 12-stop lecture tour of Australia, comparing the commercial hunts for seals in Canada and kangaroos in Australia. In recent years, Lesli’s full-time work has been in the human rights and poverty law fields, and she is currently the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office.

BP oil spill settlement (2010, Gulf of Mexico)

Remember the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back? In 2010, that was. 11 people died in the disaster. I used Twitter to get a shipment of Dawn sent to a group of people who were cleaning up oiled sea birds in Florida, back then. (I used to volunteer there in the mid-1990s.)

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Well, the damages have finally been settled, and approved by a judge. BP will pay the US government and the five affected states up to $18.7 billion in penalties.

Read more about the settlement: here.

There is also a film about the disaster now.

pelican

Pelican cleaned up after 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Lawyers’ “fat cat” image leads to more LIPs

On 28 March 2016, Citizens Advice published a new report,called

Standing alone.

 

It focuses on going to the family court without a lawyer.

The majority found self representing difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. As well as a bad experience for court users, it also means litigants in person achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.

Nine in ten litigants in person say it affected at least one other aspect of their life. Standing alone: going to the family court without a lawyer explores the four key areas affected: mental and physical health, working lives, finances and relationships.

Police data

Some points.

citizensWhen you are somehow in contact with police, as a victim, witness or offender, you can expect police to have data on you. Police have to be registered as data controllers, so that you are aware of this and can look up what they may do with the data they have on you (which they primarily obtain from you, in that case).

I carried out a search in the ICO database on “police Hampshire”. It turned up two records, of the Hampshire Police Federation (regarding its members) and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire (see here). The latter covers the data Hampshire Police has on citizens. It surprised me that the registration includes potential sharing of data with traders in personal data. This is one of the default entries, however, and I am assuming that they have left it in, just in case (a form of “CYA”).

So far so good. You would think that it becomes a different matter if you happen to be standing on the pavement eating a cheeseburger when some kind of demonstration takes place. Does that mean that your photo gets taken and you become included in the National Domestic Extremism Database?

I’ll spare you the details but as of January, I have been extremely aware of the enormous power police officers hold to screw someone royally, to put it bluntly. A chill ran down my spine when I found out something that I had been unaware of until then. The kind of coincidence that I had been a bit worried about as a result happened recently, when I discovered that I had been in Parliament Square just a few hours before Occupy planned to occupy Parliament Square. I was completely unaware of those plans, and saw nothing out of the ordinary (perhaps because I am not familiar with Parliament Square).

I am sure I stood there for a while looking pretty suspicious, however. Among other things, I was timing distances, for the sake of planning any future journeys to meetings. In the past, would that already have gotten me into the National Domestic Extremism Database because my behaviour was out of the ordinary? Non-touristy? Puzzling?

Believe it or not, there can be silly coincidences that have someone present at some kind of demonstration five times in a row. We all see such silly coincidences in other areas of our lives, after all. Does that justify the inclusion in the National Domestic Extremism Database? Of course not, but unless media shine a light on what goes on and one or two gutsy personalities take to the courts, a great deal of this kind of activity remains completely hidden from sight.

The National Domestic Extremism Database is not the only database you have to be concerned about. The police’s Crime Reporting Information System (CRIS)  can keep data up to twelve years. You would think that this CRIS system contains only crime data. It does not. CRIS contains data on serious offences, minor offences and about conduct that does not amount to an offence at all.

One wonders.

 

Confidence in the police

On 30 December 2009, the home office published Home Office Research Report 28: Improving public confidence in the police: a review of the evidence.

On 4 September 2014, a review of police functioning in England and Wales revealed that victims of crimes are being encouraged to investigate themselves, when they report offences to the police, according to the BBC. Other media, including The Guardian and the Huffington Post, also paid attention to the findings of this review.

Although the Association of Chief Police Officers appear to be explaining them as a consequence of austerity, these practices of telling victims to investigate crimes committed against them are not new.

When I reported an incident that according to the police constituted identity theft and harassment, the officer I spoke with informed me that I had to do the legwork myself if I wanted anything done because the police didn’t have the manpower to investigate these high-volume crimes. He also explained that what had happened to me could be very unsettling. He asked me whether I wanted counselling as it was available if I needed it. I appreciated that, but I declined.

That was in October 2008, when austerity measures did not play any role.

According to the BBC, the reviewers (led by Roger Baker) made similar observations, namely that this trend of telling citizens to solve crimes started before the budget cuts.

What may be related to the budget cuts, is that (in my own experience) police officers appear much less likely to offer any assistance with the psychological consequences of crimes people have been subjected to, even in more serious cases (other than standard phrases about victim support in automated recordings and printed information materials).

I think that I can safely assume that confidence in the police is currently worse than it was in 2009.

A September 2014 poll conducted by my local newspaper, the Portsmouth News, showed that only 8% of the respondents believed that police would properly investigate if they’d reported anything other than very serious crimes to the police. This number remained fairly constant during the increase of the number of respondents; the only brief deviation I saw was a percentage of 9.

But what does this low number mean?

In January 20913, the University of Twente in the Netherlands published a Bachelor thesis on the topic (confidence in the police). Notably researchers in the US and other non-EU countries have already conducted a great deal of work in this area.

When the public has a great deal of confidence in its police force, this can lead to increased feelings of safety and a decrease in fearfulness among citizens. Confidence in the police is also a good indicator for the quality of policing and of how well the public accepts the authority of the police as well as its actions.

Four factors play a role in the theoretical model to predict confidence in the police:

  • age;
  • gender;
  • direct experiences (how much contact people had with the police and whether they viewed it as positive);
  • indirect experiences (how much police-related reality TV people watch and how much they like these shows).

These factors also influence people’s fearfulness.

Confidence in the police consist of the following six components:

  • Integrity;
  • Lawfulness/legitimacy (whether police officers observe the laws in their actions;
  • Efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Democracy (fairness, openness about policies and responsibility for actions);
  • Intention (work ethic).

How does the above relate to crime figures?

In October 2014, Portsmouth City Council’s publication Flagship reported that “crime recorded by police is down by 33% since 2007/8 and 8% since last year.” I wonder how these numbers relate to the numbers of actual occurring crimes. Does citizens still report as many crimes to the police as they used to when they have experienced over the years that the police won’t investigate anyway? About 90% of all rapes go unreported, I read the other day.

The Flagship also gave numbers based on a March 2014 survey with 849 respondents. Of those respondents, 2% had experienced burglary, 1% mugging or robbing and 3% was assaulted such as beaten up. It did not mention the percentage of these crimes had actually been reported to the police. It did mention that 40% of the respondents fear burglary, 17% fear mugging/robbery and 14% fear being assaulted or beaten up.

How fearful citizens are of crime and of becoming crime victims is generally related to how much confidence they have in the police.

In essence, the fearfulness among the public does not represent citizens’ “degree of silliness” but reflects police performance and the degree of confidence people have in the police.

How much confidence people have in the police is also related to how much confidence people have in other organisations, in general.

In the Netherlands, how much confidence people have in the police is positively correlated to the quality of the contact they had with the police in the preceding twelve months, but negatively correlated if they were a victim of crime.

The Dutch study at the University of Twente was based on survey data for 125 respondents in the Netherlands.

In the same year, the Erasmus University published an extensive study of trends in the public’s confidence in the police and what they mean.

Thanks for reading. Do you still report crime to the police?

Relief from sanctions, late witness statements and litigants in person

The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.

Reblogged from Civil Litigation Brief

Civil Litigation Brief

The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.

THE CASE

The applicant in the case was the trustee in bankruptcy and bringing an action for possession and declarations of ownership in relation to a number of properties.  An order was made for the filing of evidence. The respondents did not file any evidence. A peremptory order was made that evidence be served by 5th August 2014 or the respondents be debarred from relying on evidence.

The second-respondent was the former wife of the bankrupt. She did not file evidence. She stated that she did not recall receiving the order, but did not positively state she did not receive it.

An application was made for relief from sanctions. That application was refused by the…

View original post 3,463 more words

What if you click but don’t collect?

Many retail chains offer a click-and-collect service. You select and pay for your purchases online, and on the following day or even later on the same day, you can go to a branch near you, or tube station or community location, and collect your purchases.

tomatoesBut what happens if you don’t collect your goods because another car collides with yours on the way to the store and you end up in hospital? Or simply because your train or plane is delayed? Continue reading

The case of the stolen painting

This claim came before the Court of Appeal in 2003, from the Central London County Court via the High Court. Professor Norman Palmer represented the claimant.

This may be what the painting looked like.

This may be what the Jan Steen painting at the centre of this claim looked like.

If I travel to your town, pick your lock, take a lovely locket from your home and make sure to leave no trace of my presence, go to the post office and post the locket to my home or to someone else’s address, can you sue Royal Mail for having shipped the stolen locket if you somehow find out and can even prove that Royal Mail transported your locket? “Of course not.” I can hear you say it.

Royal Mail was just doing its job for which it had been paid (postage). It had no way of knowing that the box or envelope it shipped contained stolen goods. Royal Mail has no obligation to check whether the contents of a shipment might be stolen. If you tried to take it to court, you likely wouldn’t get far but the whole thing could cost you quite a bit of money. Continue reading

The case of the demolished Robot Wars arena

Another interesting case came before the High Court in January 2010. It took up four days. It bears similarities to the case of the destroyed art, but there are also marked differences.

There were two claimants and two defendants.

Robot Wars TV series

Historic images regarding Robot Wars TV series

Continue reading

Stress and the litigation process: how can lawyers make matters better?

From the original post:
“For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives.”

From a comment:
“It still amazes me that to date, as lawyers, we fail to appreciate the importance of actively listening and showing empathy when engaging with clients.”

Civil Litigation Brief

There is a very useful article in the Solicitors Journal on stress and litigation (to avoid hyperbole I will not use the word “brilliant” but it deserves it.)  Hugh Koch analyse the sources of stress for litigants.  This made me think how little attention is paid to the “litigant’s view” of the litigation process. For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives. There is little in our training (as barristers or solicitors) that helps us put ourselves in the litigant’s place and examine ways in which we can ease the stress to our clients.

THE ARTICLE

The article examines the 24 main reasons for stress.  Some of which lawyers can deal with, some not.

THE TOP REASONS FOR STRESS

Interestingly the number one reason for stress is “Being asked about the event again and…

View original post 373 more words

The case of the destroyed art

A few years ago, in 2009, an interesting case came before the High Court. It was interesting because like so many claims involving interference with goods, it was a story about people, about mistakes they make, misunderstandings between them. and things that can happen to them. It was also relatively complex because it was a claim against three defendants, with a fourth defendant in a Part 20 claim brought by two of the original defendants, with the first two defendants and the third also pointing fingers at each other.

The claimant was sculptor Terry New.

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Continue reading

Yelp trolls

Last year, a New York steakhouse took legal steps to force Yelp to identify who wrote a certain post on Yelp. The writer claimed to be a waiter habitually spitting into the food served at the steak house. The writer used the name of a real person who said he had nothing to do with it and apparently filed a police report about the matter. The steak house took Yelp to court in an attempt to track  down the real poster. (Read more here, here and here.)

Earlier, another company had taken a similar matter to the courts in Virginia, claiming defamation. These cases force the US courts to carry out a delicate legal balancing act. The Virginia Appeals Court initially ruled that Yelp had to reveal the identities of seven posters, but Yelp appealed against that decision (read more here, here and here). The Virginia Supreme Court heard the matter in October 2014.

I haven’t been able to find recent information on the internet about these cases so it’s not clear to me how either of them ended. As there is a great deal of debate about the validity of Yelp reviews and the company’s ability to manipulate reviews, the point may be moot.

 

Family court without a lawyer

I just stumbled upon a series of excellent videos about going to court on your own in family law matters. They are good to watch for litigants in person tackling other areas of law too.

I recommend going to the court at least once before the day of your hearing. That way, you will know where to go on the day of the hearing and you’ll know how long it takes you to get there.

Take into account that a hearing can suddenly be scheduled in a different building for logistic reasons if there are several courts on the same location. Always check with court staff in which room (and which building) your hearing will take place (and listen to any announcements on the public address system, if there is one).

Our Pay-Per-Period assistance package can include some practical training focused on several aspects of going to court on your own. As our assistance is tailored to our clients’ specific needs, this differs from client to client.