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Actually, my mother had exactly the same kind of care in her last days as Michael Elcock's (10 May). And that was in the UK. She suffered breast cancer and mastectomy in 1993, and had the predicted five years beyond that. When the 'six months to live' notice was issued, she was at her home in England. She stayed there for a while, until a spell in hospital convinced us that we had to brook no objections, and bring her to our home.
I collected her from hospital, and we drove through familiar landscapes home. The local GP practice was with us the next morning, followed by hospital bed, followed by social workers for care assessment. Thereafter, she lived contentedly (I think) with increasing pain control, kind carers twice daily who helped with dressing, massaging and oiling skin, district nurses, doctor regularly from fornightly down to daily toward the end. We added help from Crossroads and from Marie Curie overnight. I worked full-time and ran the house, managed the medications and was my mother's principal carer. We did not simply manage; it was a good death. All on the NHS and charitable organisations – so, like Michael Elcock, we donate so that others may be similarly helped.
Her friends visited, the phone was crucial, there were lots of funny incidents, we read, talked and watched the garden grow, but above all, the tenderness and concern of all those we met were the things we remember. Thank you NHS, Marie C, and Crossroads.
Michael Elcock gives a moving account of the care his mother received in Vancouver. However this is also a Scottish success story.
In the early 1970s, the Health Education Board for Scotland got a group of us together to tour Scotland, opening up a discussion about palliative care. Along with the late Dr Dick Parry, I was part of that team. Some of us went on to create hospices – in my own case, with Dr Lyon, the Strathcarron hospice at Denny.
During my spell as chair of the management committee of Strathcarron, the UK hospice movement was challenged by the high inflation of the 80s and the surrounding austerity. Tom Scott, our director, was given sabbatical leave to persuade Michael Forsyth, the secretary of state, to help the Scottish hospice movement. Unlike his counterpart in England [Virginia Bottomley] Michael, to his credit, agreed to fund the Scottish hospices by matching pound for pound every pound the public donated. The hospices in Scotland are a shining example of a true partnership between the people and the government which survives even today in our current austerity.
Palliative care still faces challenges in improving community and home-based care, but the hospices have contributed to a huge improvement in the level of care. It would have matched the care which Michael's mother received in Canada and there would have been no bill at all, though donations were and are still welcome.
Dr Richard Simpson, MSP
As interesting as Alan Fisher's 'Seal team six' epistle is (9 May), I nonetheless shake my head with increased despair at our collective willingness to accept such information purely on face value. For a nation second only to Britain in terms of being anally retentive concerning security issues, am I the only one who finds America's liberal use of the specific title 'Seal team six' completely at odds with their usual tight-lipped reference to any involvement of 'special forces', unless that is, it has been deemed to serve a significant and poignant propaganda purpose. The simple fact is that Alan Fisher is commenting upon what he has been fed by the media rather than via any significant inside information from the source itself (unless of course he's willing to state otherwise?)
This is, basically speaking, the way of things. We bestow our trust upon the media to ferret out the absolute truth surrounding any given local, regional, national or indeed international issue and convey to us what we then perceive to be the absolute facts of the matter based upon their diligent endeavours. The sad reality, however, is that the likes of Mr Fisher are willing to pick up any baton with scant regard for its origin or authenticity and immediately thereafter run with it in a very public place.
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