Wednesday, February 04, 2009

We live in strange times

Liz Hunt on The Telegraph recounts an unsubstantiated anecdote to explain why she thinks nurses shouldn't offer to pray for sick people.

Caroline Petrie, the community nurse who offered to pray for an ailing pensioner, has failed in her duties, and the Royal College of Nursing is wrong to back her in the forthcoming disciplinary hearing.

Failed in her duties? Because she cared about someone? As far as I'm aware there was no question of Ms. Petrie providing an insufficient level of care - which, as a nurse, is her duty. Hunt uses her own experience as a "pre-registration student" at a teaching hospital to explain why she thinks this is so.

Each of us "pre-regs" was assigned a mentor. I was lucky: "Martin" was a dedicated pharmacist with a wide breadth of therapeutic knowledge, and a warm way with patients. I looked forward to shadowing him on the wards each week, as he blended anecdotes from his career with knowledge about drugs that is acquired only through long experience in a clinical setting and never from a textbook.

Of course, Martin had my respect, too – until one particular day. A theatre nurse arrived at the dispensary hatch with an emergency request for a drug used to terminate pregnancy. Martin, the most senior pharmacist present, went into a very public melt-down, refusing to dispense the drug because "I'm a Catholic and abortion is not something I can condone".

I'm not sure how old Liz Hunt, but it sounds as if this took place quite a long time ago. If it is true and had been a relatively recent thing then we'd surely have seen poor old Martin spread across the front pages of The Grauniad and Independent by now.

I understood Martin's conflicted feelings – I'd spent seven years at convent school. What I didn't understand was him putting his religious principles before the wellbeing of his patient, and insisting on such a grandstanding fuss about it all. The man I had thought of as the ultimate professional had failed in my eyes – just as Caroline Petrie has done.

Hmm - putting "religious principles before the wellbeing" of a patient, eh? Well, let's just consider the case of Ms Petrie in respect to this anecdote. Ms Petrie at no time failed to provide the level of nursing care required as far as I understand it. She showed exceptional levels of concern and care for her patient to such an extent that she offered to say a private prayer for the patient if they so desired. That person wasn't the least bit put out by that - but someone else, not the patient, was.

So, what we have is someone - not the patient, nor the nurse involved - having a "meltdown" and putting their "religious principles" ahead of the wellbeing of a patient just so they could score points for being more diversity sensitive.

And Liz Hunt thinks that is OK?

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been in hospitals and care homes and seen patients left sitting in their own excrement for hours at a time - probably because the nurses and carers were all busy with diversity training - and I have many personal anecdotes I could share about the level of care my father received and the way his dignity was stripped away in the last days of his life, but those are private and are staying that way. Let's just say that my father's lifelong belief in the NHS failed him the one time he actually needed it.

But what really annoys people like Liz Hunt are people who pray. The world really has gone mad.

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