The NHS phobia of diagnostic tests costs a woman dearly
Tests cost money
We’d been married for six years when my husband Phil and I decided it was time to start a family. The timing felt right. I was 34, we were both in secure jobs — as a writer and teacher in my case, while he works as a graphic artist.
After six months of trying to get pregnant, I visited my doctor. I’d been suffering from persistent pelvic pain for nine months and had a swollen stomach. Even though I was on a diet, I’d been piling on weight.
My GP sent me for tests for sexually transmitted diseases, but the results came back negative and I was sent away thinking it was just one of those things.
Six months later, just after Christmas, I went back to the GP with increased abdominal pain. This time he prescribed Fybogel powders for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He didn’t send me for a scan and, not suspecting anything serious, I didn’t ask him for one.
The Fybogel had no effect and I returned three more times over a period of five weeks, desperately seeking help. Eventually, my GP said I could have an ultrasound if the pains persisted.
By this time, my back ached constantly and movement was painful. I hadn’t conceived, but I looked like I was nine months’ pregnant. I was breathless after walking just a few yards.
I decided to take action. More than a year after the pain began, I admitted myself to A&E at the Royal London Hospital. A blood test was promptly arranged to test my levels of CA125, a protein known to indicate ovarian cancer. A normal CA125 level would be below 35. Mine was 665. A consultant held my hand and broke the news.
I felt like the ground had been pulled from under me. I was devastated and angry that I was being treated so late. Before my diagnosis I’d never considered ovarian cancer. I was only 34 and I thought it was something old women got.
Three weeks later, in March 2009, I was transferred to Barts Hospital in London, where I was told I’d need to have my ovaries removed. I fought back the tears and tried to be grateful that even though Phil and I would now never have a child of our own, the cancer had been caught in time to save my life.
During the operation, the surgeons found two large tumours — one was 14 cms in diameter. They were taken out and examined while I was still under anaesthetic and judged to be borderline, meaning chemotherapy wouldn’t be necessary. However, I was called back a couple of weeks later to hear a fuller analysis from my surgeon.
He said that, in fact, the tumours had been so large, they had pressed down on the womb, spreading the disease into the rest of my body. So I would now need a full hysterectomy and three months of chemotherapy.
Phil was by my side every step of the way. We were furious that our chance to have a baby had been snatched from us. At one point, I offered him the chance to leave and find someone else, but he told me he wanted to stay whatever.
However, we both shared a desperate wish that I’d had that simple £20 test sooner and that it had been taken by my doctor — not hastily administered in hospital, when the cancer had already spread so extensively….
Eastern European migrants’ boost to British economy was ‘insignificant’, says thinktank
A claim that mass immigration from Eastern Europe gave a huge boost to Britain’s economy was rubbished last night in a groundbreaking report.
The wave of migrants who came to the UK from Poland and other former Communist states had an ‘insignificant’ impact on growth, according to a respected economic think tank. In just five years after EU expansion in 2004, they pushed up Britain’s population by 700,000 – a rise of more than one per cent. However, they added a third of that – just 0.38 per cent – to Britain’s economic output over the same period, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research said.
The report prompted a renewed attack on Labour’s ‘open door’ migration policy which heaped pressure on public services and housing.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank said: ‘This blows out of the water many of the arguments that the immigration lobby have been making for years. ‘We now find that the contribution of workers from Eastern Europe to our GDP was trivial, much less than their addition to our population.’ He added: ‘This is the last nail in the coffin of Labour’s immigration policy.’
Successive Labour Home Secretaries, as well as former PM Tony Blair, defended immigration by citing the supposed economic benefits of new arrivals. A Home Office-commissioned report in 2007 claimed immigration added £6billion to the economy during the previous calendar year.
But today’s report found they added just £4.91bn to Gross Domestic Product over the entire five years from 2004.
The researchers also said the patterns of migration established over the past seven years were ‘likely to prove permanent’.
Left-wing supporters of mass migration have pointed to the dip in Eastern European arrivals seen during the recession as evidence many of those migrants who came to Britain would return home when work dried up.
It was also claimed Polish and other Eastern European workers would try to find jobs in Germany and other countries who, from yesterday, were forced to abandon temporary restrictions on workers from A8 contries- Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
But one of the report’s authors, Dawn Holland, said the lifting of restrictions by other EU countries would make little difference. She said: ‘Lifting barriers in Germany may divert some Polish and other workers away from the UK,’ she says, ‘especially given the relative strength of the German economy.’ ‘But as the existence of support networks for new migrants is one of the most important factors, much of the shift in migrants since 2004 is likely to prove permanent.’
The report found that between 2004 and 2009 around 1.5million Eastern Europeans came to Britain from the eight new EU states. The report estimated around 700,000 stayed, including half a million from Poland alone. Over the same period Britain’s GDP grew by £98bn – of which 5 per cent can be attributed to immigration, the NIESR said. By contrast, it found Germany’s growth fell by as little as 0.1per cent as a result of imposing curbs on new arrivals.
Tory immigration minister Damian Green this year vowed not to repeat the ‘mistake’ of not implementing the transitional controls, which were limited to seven years and expired yesterday.
The Labour government allowed full access to Britain’s job market, and only imposed restrictions on benefits. These also expired yesterday – raising fears of a new rush of benefits tourists.
A House of Lords report on immigration in 2008 found the economic benefits of immigration were ‘small and close to zero’.
Mr Green commented: ‘While immigration can being benefits, it can strain public services, infrastructure and community cohesion unless it is properly controlled. ‘That is why, as well as reducing net migration to the tens of thousands, the government will introduce transitional controls for new EU member states as a matter of course.’
Tescophobia: a new middle‑class malady
The chattering classes’ weird hatred of a large and successful British supermarket chain reveals the elitism of modern-day consumer activism: Reminiscent of Wal-Mart hatred in the USA
For a few years now Britain’s chattering classes have been in the grip of a peculiar malady. We might call it Tescophobia. Symptoms include an irrepressible desire to write long, boring tracts about how wicked Tesco is and a weird kind of brain rot that leads you to see perfectly normal behaviour – such as people buying nice food at low prices – as ‘evil’ and ‘thoughtless’. There is no known cure. Though I’m sure a glass of Tesco own brand ‘Scotch’ whisky could help tame this moralistic fever.
At the Easter weekend there was an outburst of a particularly bad strain of Tescophobia in Stokes Croft in Bristol. Following a heavyhanded police raid on a squat, the squatters and various anti-capitalist activists attacked both the cops and a new local Tesco store, against which they had been campaigning for months. They’ve won sympathy from sections of the media, where this ‘anti-Tesco action’ has been talked up as some kind of heroic defence of ‘community independence’ against ‘corporate entities’.
In truth, the ‘Tesco riot’ – as future generations will no doubt recall it (LOL) – exposed the naked elitism of modern-day consumer activism and the gulf, nay the chasm, that now separates middle-class radicals from everyday people.
The most striking thing about contemporary consumer activism is its disregard for the principles of democracy. I’m not into consumer politics; I don’t believe you can change the world by electing to buy Palestinian oranges but never Jewish ones, or by only drinking coffee for which the beans were crushed by the elbows of some far-flung Peruvian tribe who refuse to use pesticides and who get a fairtrade wage ($1.25 a day rather than $1).
However, if I did buy the idea that buying power equals political power, that how you shop tells us heaps about what you believe, then I’d most likely look upon Tesco as a bastion of democracy. The consumers have spoken, millions upon millions of them, and they have said in roaring chorus: ‘I love Tesco.’ They have voted with their wallets – as we are so often encouraged to do these days, by everyone from Greenpeace to anti-Israel agitators – and according to one eye-swivelling statistic £1 out of every £7 spent in Britain is now spent at a Tesco. If, as we are constantly informed by self-defined edgy commentators, consumerism is the new site for political expression and identity formation, then Tesco shoppers should surely be accorded the utmost respect; they are the majority, the most numerous of all of the consumers, and thus should rule the retail roost.
But the opposite is the case. Tesco shoppers are treated by the chattering classes with utter contempt, looked upon as trackie-wearing zombies witlessly buying lamb that has been flown thousands of miles and thus has left a honking carbon skidmark across Gaia’s face or milk squeezed from a cow cruelly strapped to a machine. Tesco is a ‘spiritual wasteland’, says one writer, with its patrons ‘slumping from place to place… listless and depressed’. A Telegraph columnist says people who shop at Tesco are those who go ‘on holiday to Spain to drink lager and eat egg and chips’. Whisper it: oiks, the working classes, probably even the underclasses since Tesco is so bloody cheap, who indulge in consumerism of the wrong, and thus eminently ignorable, kind.
Far from according any respect to the shopping habits of the Tesco masses, the influential Tescophobics do everything they can to curb these allegedly destructive habits. They campaign vociferously against the building of new Tesco stores, these garish temples to cheapness, and complain at length about the ‘Tesco-isation’ of society.
This elite anti-Tesco fury, which erupted into a shriek of violent middle-class rage at the weekend, exposes how inherently anti-democratic consumer activism is. Consumer activism implicitly empowers the comfortably-off middle classes over the less well-off working classes. Where in normal politics, everybody is ostensibly equal – one man has one vote, regardless of how rich or poor he is – in the sphere of radical consumer politics individuals who have superior spending power are inevitably more powerful than individuals with inferior spending power. In a political realm built upon consumerism, where buying organic or patronising your local butcher or only wearing expensive eco-cotton rather than Primark’s rags are all taken as signs of moral purity, how much a person has to spend determines how politically influential he can be.
So the average Tesco shopper, despite being part of the largest consumer tribe of all, can be transformed into an object of derision by the Waitrose-patronisers of the liberal smart set, because his ability to shop ‘imaginatively’, to buy expensive niche and PC products and foodstuffs, is limited in comparison to that of the well-off consumer activist. He is, in the political terms of the radical consumer lobby, inferior, unequal, the nigger of consumerism.
The distinction now made between good consumers and bad consumers – that is, between those with a lot of money and those with less – was summed up by a newspaper columnist who said that admitting to shopping in Tesco is to commit ‘social death’ in the world of London’s ‘middle-class incomers’. For those who do their food-shopping in ‘Portuguese delis and local markets’, there’s nothing more ordure than to visit a Tesco store. ‘We can all see what’s wrong with supermarkets in particular and colossal chain retailers in general’, he said. The most important word in that sentence is ‘we’ – he really means ‘us’, the well-paid media set, against ‘them’, the averagely waged Tesco hordes. Refusing to shop at Tesco is now one of the key ways that the right-thinking middle classes choose to advertise their separation from, and their superiority over, the grubby, vulgar, thoughtless lower orders.
This explains the real attraction of the politics of consumerism to modern-day, so-called radicals: it allows them to circumvent the traditional sphere of politics, where, ridiculously, every Tom, Dick and Harry has as much clout as every Will, Rollo and Cressida, and to enter a world where some people are naturally, by dint of their pay packet, superior to others. It is largely only the cash-rich and the time-rich, the leisured classes, who can make great play of their allergy to supermarkets and their slow and considered patronage of local ironmongers, organic bakers, traditionalist fishmongers, and so on – and through the politics of consumerism they can transform what is ultimately just a posh lifestyle choice into an advertisement of their moral superiority over the cash-strapped, time-pressed little people.
As I say, I don’t believe in consumer politics. But if it goes on like this, and Tescophobia continues to spread amongst the chattering classes, then buying a £2 prawn sandwich from a Tesco Metro might soon become an act of implacable rebellion against today’s radical snobs.
Bowing down to a new god: the scientist
Peter Atkins delights in telling us that humanity came from nothing and that we’re returning to nothing, and he assumes anyone who doesn’t share his nihilistic beliefs is an idiot
It seems that certain men of science, like their hymn-sakes the Christian soldiers, are on the march. For these faithless crusaders, science is not simply a method by which we gain understanding and mastery of the physical world. No, it has become a weapon of enlightenment, a cudgel to be wielded against the ‘ignorant’ multitudes, ‘deluded to the point of perversity’ (to quote high priest of The Science, Richard Dawkins) by religious metaphysics and philosophical myth. For these Darwin-obsessed, unblinkingly deterministic culture-warmongers, science has become more than a method. It has become a mission.
Joining Richard Dawkins at the front line in the war against People With Wrong Beliefs, whether Christian or German Idealist, is Peter Atkins, former professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford and author of On Being – A scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence. It’s an unabashed attempt to show why the scientific method will come closer to answering the big ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions than – to sling Atkins’ mud – all the theological fantasists, political storytellers and philosophical shysters put together. And to be fair to the scientistic Atkins, he certainly knows his onions, albeit from the sub-atomic level upwards.
Starting with the beginning of it all, he looks at and speculates about the beginning of the universe, that instant of creation that thus far lies just beyond the comprehension of contemporary physicists. Having answered, at least as far he’s concerned, why there is something and not nothing – there is in fact still nothing, it’s just been rendered internally antagonistic – he quickly takes us on a red-in-tooth-and-claw tour through Darwin’s ‘dangerous idea’. Natural selection done and dusted, Atkins then offers up a sneaky peep at our individual beginnings in the human reproductive process, before indulging us with a gruesome portrait of our post-death decomposition. Atkins then ends with The End – not just of our universe, but of all universes – as the something reverts once more to nothing: ‘All life, including all the achievements, myths, and fantasies of mankind, if any survive for such a vast length of time, will be gone.’
And that, as they say, is that. This is what science can tell us about being, from beginning to end. If Atkins had just wanted to give a physical account of being, right down to the smallest atom, that might have been interesting. Yet, On Being does not want to be merely interesting; it does not want to simply say what science can (and cannot) tell us about life and death, the universe and the cosmos. It exists, rather, as a reprimand, a rebuke to all those who dare to think differently, who live their lives according to beliefs not derived from the natural sciences. On Being is infused with animus, not pedagogy. And little wonder: asserting that ‘everything is an aspect of the physical, material world’, Atkins believes that everything must be susceptible to a physical, material explanation. To think otherwise, to reckon on there being more to being than the laws of physics, is to commit heresy.
“Atkins is simply incapable of understanding any approach to ‘the great questions of existence’ not rooted in physical science”
His prose is replete with pejoratives for those exercising their freedom of conscience and not signing up to the dictates of evolutionary biology. They are the willing dupes of ‘mythmakers’ and ‘promoters of the spirit’, their beliefs, like a frog’s entrails on a dissecting board, mere ‘psychological and cultural viscera’ for Atkins to coolly analyse and dismiss as ‘nonsense’. Which he does a lot. At one point, while discussing eschatology and those poor deluded fools who cling to various theological termini – you know, redemption, that type of thing – he even plays the psychotic card: ‘The only chilling thought among all this persiflageous disputation [among millenarians] is the possibility that powerful born-agains, with their fingers close not to swords but to nuclear buttons, will conspire to bring about Armageddon and thereby, at the expense of civilisation, murderously verify their ludicrous but professedly sincerely held beliefs.’ Quite where in the Old Testament it urges people to actively destroy the world is not made clear. Not that this would matter to Atkins: his arrogance renders him oblivious to his ignorance.
His utter contempt for those, religious or otherwise, whose beliefs deviate from the scientific proofs irrefutably outlined in his Big Book of Scientific Facts, is even reflected in the form of On Being. So while discussing the replication and modification of human DNA, Atkins warns the reader that, because of the complexity of what he’s discussing, the typeface will become smaller. We, the cretinous readers, are told that we can skip these sections if we like, that is, if we accept that ‘science has achieved the near-miracle of detailed understanding’. Form speaks louder than content here. Atkins doesn’t want us to understand the science so much as consent to it. The densely-packed passages of complex explication, published in nine-point font, are the scientistic equivalent of shock and awe. Look on science’s works, ye morons, and submit.
Atkins is simply incapable of understanding, let alone tolerating, any approach to ‘the great questions of existence’ that is not rooted in the physical sciences. Like Doubting Thomas, Pathological Peter steadfastly refuses to countenance any concept, be it God or Geist, that does not have a material, physically provable existence. There is no ‘physically inaccessible kingdom of the spirit’, he spits. Yes, we may long for ‘the non-physical’, but ‘longing is not itself an adequate proof of the existence of what is longed for’, he writes, condescension inspiring his prose.
Facts are everything, for Atkins, because the only category he works with is that of ‘what is’. This is why he finds any notion of there being anything beyond what is to be anathema. Yet, ‘what is’, if he’d taken a peek outside his scientistic bunker, does not exhaust being; there is also the category of ‘what ought to be’. Atkins is right to assert that this other category, the domain not just of ethics, but of utopian imaginings, of redeemed futures, does not exist. It is not a fact. Rather it is that which humans, through their actions and conduct, strive towards. The idea, be it heaven or Charles Fourier’s phalanstery, is not existent because it is ‘not yet’ – in other words, it is to come.
Such hopes of transcending one’s current state, whether fallen or just plain old deprived, are not the preserve merely of messianic theologians or Kant-inspired idealists. They have been the source of some of humanity’s greatest achievements and have driven some of the most hard-headed political revolutionaries of recent times. Vladamir Lenin, not someone usually associated with idle idealism, quotes the nineteenth century Russian radical Dimitri Pissarev approvingly in What Is To Be Done?: ‘If a person were completely devoid of dreaming… if he were not to hasten ahead now and again to view in his imagination as a unified and completed picture the work which is only now beginning to take shape in his hands, then I find it absolutely impossible to imagine what would motivate the person to tackle and to complete extensive and strenuous pieces of work in the fields of art, science, and political life…’. Indeed. Without that leap of faith, that very human will to attempt to bend reality to some idea of how it ought to be, then one might well be prepared to leave things just the way they are.
“In On Being, humanity, in all its past and future glory, is reduced to utter insignificance”
But so bewitched are Atkins and his ilk by material laws governing everything since the formation of the universe that they completely ignore the ideas that help shape matter’s development. They’re closer to Stalin than Lenin insofar as there seems to be very little place for the subjective component in their theorising. Instead, everything proceeds with funeral certainty according to immutable, unquestionable physical laws, from the Big Bang to the slow thermo-nuclear ebb of our Sun’s entropic decline. ‘The spreading of matter and energy is the root of all change’, writes Atkins of entropy, his ‘favourite’ law: ‘Wherever it occurs, be it corrosion, corruption, growth, decay, flowering, artistic creation, exquisite creation, understanding, reproduction, cancer, fun, accident… or just simple pointless motion it is an outward manifestation of this inner spring, the purposeless spreading of matter and energy in ever greater disorder.’ On a grand, cosmic scale, Atkins replicates the determinism which Stalin’s dialectical materialism produced on the socio-historic. Our actions might appear to be the product of conscious decisions, themselves little more than neural activity, ‘but we should be aware that deep down we, like everything, are driven by purposeless decay: that is why we have to eat’.
In On Being, humanity, in all its past and future glory, is reduced to utter insignificance. Even the Big Bang that gave rise to our universe is deemed an ‘infinitesimal event on a grandly hypercosmic stage’. The effect of such rhetoric is, ironically given Atkins’ professed atheism, to encourage a deference towards something far, far greater than we could possibly imagine: ‘Although science might seem arrogant in arrogating to itself true understanding, what it discovers is often the foundation of true humility.’ We are encouraged to do little more than wonder at the pointless majesty of the cosmos, a resurrection of deference before a god, but with none of the purpose of religious belief.
Atkins’ faithless, shrunken world of energy and entropy is almost triumphant in its nihilism. ‘We shall have gone the journey of all purposeless stardust’, he concludes, ‘driven unwittingly by chaos, gloriously but aimlessly evolved into sentience, born unchoosingly into the world, unwillingly taken from it, and inescapably returned to nothing. Such is life.’ Nietzsche, so wrong when it came to many things, has it right for Atkins and his crew of scientistic New Atheists. In the absence of a will to something, there is only a will to nothing.
A grunt from Canada about the monarchy
“I contend that the monarchy must go because it embodies values that are anathema to Canadian ideals of gender equity, religious tolerance and racial equality.
Succession of the monarchy is governed by male-preference cognatic primogeniture, under which sons inherit before daughters. How can Canada, which has such built-in bias favouring males over females as our head of state, be taken seriously on the issue of gender equality?
This blatant discrimination—which it seems to me is contrary to the spirit, at least, of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms—probably passes unnoticed because Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for almost 60 years, a lifetime for many Canadians. But for how much longer will Canadians stand for its basic lack of fairness?
And regarding the Charter, does it not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion? Yet our monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic.
The monarchy long preceded Canada itself and works very well as it is. Will Canada’s carping anti-discrimination laws ever evoke the vast pride and happiness shown by the British public on great Royal occasions? And the monarchy is also very popular in Canada itself
There was in fact quite recently a proposal in Britain to change the law to scrap male primogeniture and the prohibition of Catholics from the throne but it had no real support and was quickly dropped when the Archbishop of Canterbury said it would pose “difficulties”.
Risky business: “UK transport minister Norman Baker this week refused to apologise for saying that cyclists may be safer not wearing helmets. Baker, whose role includes responsibilities for cycling, cited research that drivers tend to go closer to cyclists who are wearing helmets, but give a wider berth to those who are not. Indeed, the national cyclists’ organisation itself argues that those who wear helmets are 14% more likely to have a collision than those who don’t.”