Mother sues for £300,000 after her baby suffered brain damage when doctors thought the girl was born dead but was in fact alive
A mother is demanding £300,000 damages after her baby suffered brain damage at birth – and she was told her daughter was dead when she was still alive. Megan Hidle was born showing no signs of life and hospital staff stopped resuscitation after thirteen minutes. Her mother, Rebecca Hidle, 31, and her husband were told she was dead.
Half an hour later, the neonatal registrar realised that Megan was pink and gasping, and her parents, having believed their baby had died, were told she was alive and had a fifty/fifty chance of surviving the day.
Tests showed that Megan, now five, had suffered brain damage after being starved of oxygen during her birth and she now has cerebral palsy which affects her balance. She can run and walk short distances, can use both hands in many activities of daily life, but has problems manipulating small items in her left hand.
She takes medication for frequent vomiting, has a small head, but is able to go to mainstream school, although doctors say she is at risk of complications such as epilepsy, scoliosis, or contraction of her Achilles tendon.
Now through her mother, Megan, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, is demanding damages of more than £300,000 from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The trust has admitted negligence over her birth, according to a High Court writ. But the two sides are thought unable to agree how much compensation she should receive.
Megan was born at Leicester Royal Infirmary on October 31 2006, about five weeks premature, after an emergency caesarean section.
An obstetric registrar found it impossible to deliver her head, and called for help, but a specialist registrar was also unable to deliver her head, and had to enlarge the incision before Megan was delivered at 4,02am, floppy, not breathing, with no signs of life.
After hospital staff gave up efforts to resuscitate her, the neonatal registrar realised that she was pink and gasping at about 4.45 am as she lay alone on the resuscitation table, the court will hear.
Megan was transferred to the neonatal unit, where she developed abnormal movements, and needed ventilation. She was allowed home with her parents on November 12 2006. Mrs Hidle says that without medical negligence, her daughter would have been delivered alive and unharmed and the trust admitted this in March 2011.
She is seeking provisional damages for her daughter, and an order allowing her to return to court if Megan’s condition deteriorates and she develops epilepsy, scoliosis, or abnormal movements caused by neurological disorders.
Fertility quango sits on £3.4m as thousands of women are refused IVF
The fertility quango has £3.4million of unspent funds – while thousands of women are being refused IVF on the NHS because it is too expensive.
Figures reveal the surplus money built up by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority could pay for 850 women to have treatment.
The funds have been gradually accumulated from the £75 fee paid by the NHS and private clinics to the HFEA every time a woman has treatment.
Campaigners have demanded the organisation gives the money back to the dozens of NHS trusts which are refusing women IVF because they are so short of money.
Last year a report by MPs found three quarters of primary care trusts are denying women treatment and not funding the three courses recommended by the health watchdog NICE.
This includes five PCTs which refuse to pay for IVF altogether while many others reject women deemed too fat, thin, old or young.
As a result, couples desperate for children are having to go to private clinics and take out loans or re-mortgage their homes to cover the hefty fees.
Last year 45,000 women underwent IVF treatment, with 60 per cent having to pay for it privately.
One cycle of IVF can cost between £4,000 and £8,000 as clinics charge vast fees for ‘extras’, including up to £200 for a consultation and as much as £1,000 for freezing and storing embryos.
The surplus, the equivalent to half of the organisation’s annual budget, could pay for about 850 women to have IVF at a cost of £4,000 a treatment.
Clare Lewis-Jones of the charity Infertility UK, said: ‘We believe the funds built up by the HFEA should be re-invested back into the area which they regulate and that infertility patients should in some way benefit from this excess.’
The HFEA has insisted that the money was accumulated through ‘prudent’ budgeting, and said it would be too ‘complex’ to try to give the money back to cash-strapped NHS trusts.
The figures were obtained by the Health Service Journal.
A poll in December revealed that a quarter of women having IVF said that they have to take out high-interest loans, reach their credit card limit and even re-mortgage their homes for a chance to realise their dream of motherhood.
Couples were forced to go to private clinics for IVF despite the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority building up a surplus big enough to pay for 850 women to undergo treatment
A third of the 2,500 British women questioned by Red Magazine for its annual fertility report had spent more than £20,000.
Success rates are just 32 per cent for women under 35, falling rapidly with age to just 1.5 per cent for those over 45.
This means that many are being forced to fork out for three or more cycles of treatment.
Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘This comes at a time when NHS funding for infertility treatment such as IVF has been cut in many parts of the country as a cost cutting measure, and both hospital and household budgets are feeling the squeeze.
‘The £3.4million is a significant sum of money and by a conservative estimate would fund over 850 cycles of IVF treatment.
‘The BFS believes it is inappropriate for the regulator to amass such a sum, which by its own admission is “unusually large”.
‘We will be writing to the HFEA chief executive to ask for an explanation.’
A spokesman from the HFEA said: ‘Previously, we have agreed with the department not to pursue the possibility of returning the money to clinics due to the complex principles and practicalities that would entail.
‘We developed proposals to enhance our capabilities in three ways, to spend the surplus money “wisely”, over three years.
‘The Department of Health have told us that they cannot agree to this for the next financial year, and so we await the department’s alternative suggestions.’
How political correctness is ruining Britain’s police
As corrupt cop Ali Dizaei is finally jailed, an ex-colleague says the Met has been paralysed by fears of being branded racist
The Metropolitan Police continues to stumble from one self-inflicted crisis to another, weakening its ability to fight genuine crime. It is a force that for too long has been gripped by a dangerous cocktail of poor leadership, politically correct dogma, warped priorities and tactical incompetence.
Those flaws have been graphically illustrated by the appalling case of Ali Dizaei, the notoriously corrupt Iranian-born officer who was this week sent back to jail for a second time after his conviction for perverting the course of justice.
Only an organisation obsessed with the creed of diversity and lacking in moral integrity would have allowed a swaggering, criminal bully like Dizaei to rise up its hierarchy and gain a senior position. He should have been drummed out long ago, not constantly rewarded with promotion.
But Dizaei is a symbol of the rot within the top ranks of the Met. Too many senior officers seem to have forgotten that their central duty is to protect the law-abiding British public.
Selfish Instead of taking tough decisions — like challenging Dizaei — they indulge in politicised manoeuvres designed to protect their own backs and further their own careers.
The high command of the Met inhabits a culture where cowardice is dressed up as pragmatism, where a talent for spouting jargon trumps determination to take on the criminals.
The biggest losers from this approach are not just ordinary decent British citizens, but also the constables out on the streets, often doing a heroic, selfless job only to be undermined by their selfish, careerist superiors. It is no exaggeration to say that the Met frontline are lions led by vacillating donkeys.
As a former detective chief superintendent at the Met myself, I have been appalled by the Dizaei saga.
I was actually the borough commander in West London at the time when, in July 2008, he tried to frame an innocent Iraqi businessman, Waad al-Baghdadi, with whom he was engaged in a bitter feud over money. The incident ultimately led to two criminal trials and Dizaei’s conviction this week.
But from the moment Dizaei hauled Mr al-Baghdadi into Hammersmith police station on charges of assault, I had the severest doubts about his tale. This was not just because of the unconvincing nature of his story that al-Baghdadi had attacked him, which turned out to be a pack of lies, but also because of Dizaei’s appalling record of dishonesty, corruption and abuse of office.
Like almost everyone else in the Met, I had always known that he was a wrong ’un. On a superficial level, he could be charming and personable, but his easy manner barely disguised his dark side.
He was a figure of epic venality, ambition and ruthlessness, his entire career geared towards furthering his own interests, regardless of the legality or probity of his methods.
When he joined the Met as a superintendent in 1999, former colleagues in the Thames Valley Police, where he was an officer for more than a decade, warned us to beware, telling us of his enthusiasm for playing the race card to achieve his ends.
But in a climate of hysteria over accusations of ‘institutionalised racism’, the Met’s top brass were desperate to recruit more ethnic minority senior officers.
The warnings from Thames Valley Police were grimly fulfilled. Dizaei was a master at using fears about racism to thwart any challenge to his increasingly aggressive, self-serving conduct. The National Black Police Association, of which Dizaei was president, was his chosen instrument with which to bully and intimidate the Met’s hierarchy. He became a law unto himself. The Met’s terror of taking any action against him made him feel even more invincible.
Even the Independent Police Complaints Commission, normally all too keen on enforcing the politically correct code, urged the Met to discipline Dizaei — but top commanders were too pusillanimous to do so. Most had prospered by avoiding tough decisions. They were not going to risk all by taking on a formidable adversary who loved to smear his critics as racists.
Thanks to their lack of courage, he got away with behaviour that would have led to the sacking of any other Met employee.
So he gained a PhD with a thesis attacking the Met on racism, while in 2007 he wrote an autobiographical book called Not One Of Us, which contained severe criticism of the Met.
Yet instead of being sacked for gross disloyalty, he was promoted. Can you imagine any successful company that would behave in such a pathetic manner towards a senior member of staff making money out of trashing the firm’s reputation?
Fuelled by his invulnerability, Dizaei’s ego was legendary among the rank-and-file. On one occasion he alleged that two constables had damaged his private car. On investigation, it turned out that the damage was inflicted by one of his many mistresses.
Any other officer behaving in that way would have been disciplined or sacked, especially because he had shown such a contemptible lack of respect towards the two constables.
But nothing happened to Dizaei, protected as he was by the shield of spurious anti-racism. On another occasion, he drove into the station and parked so carelessly that he blocked the exit of the emergency response vehicles. Almost immediately, the emergency vehicle was needed.
‘Can you move your car?’ called out the officers, needing to rush to the scene of the incident. ‘You move it,’ replied Dizaei, throwing them the keys and marching brazenly inside.
That was the arrogance of the man. He had no sense of public service, not a shred of decency. He was a brute in uniform, who once threatened to kill the mother of one of his mistresses ‘like a dog’.
But Dizaei was clever enough to exploit the political pressures on the Met for more than a decade.
And, of course, political correctness was to blame for the pusillanimous way the rampaging gangs of looters and vandals — many from ethnic minorities — were dealt with during the riots last summer.
Paralysed by political correctness and accusations of racism, terrified of being accountable for controversial decisions over public order, the Met’s senior officers allowed the mob to control the streets for five days before launching a crackdown.
This is not the police force that the public deserves.
The one great hope is that the Met has a new Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, who made his name fighting crime on Liverpool’s tough streets. Hogan-Howe’s virtues are that he does not crave adulation from the politicians, always a sign of good judgment, and that he has real experience of operational requirements.
Far too many senior officers in the Met have reached the top without such a background. In fact, the avoidance of tough, frontline responsibilities is often the hallmark of a modern successful career in the Met.
The arrival of Hogan-Howe, combined with the welcome downfall of Ali Dizaei, may put an end to this pattern. And, finally, policing will be governed by the needs of the public instead of politics.
Women prisoners should be allowed out to visit their children, British judge rules
Female prisoners should be allowed temporary release from jail to visit their children, a High Court judge has ruled.
Kenneth Clarke was wrong to try to stop two women prisoners being allowed time out of prison to see their children, said Mrs Justice Lang. She said the Justice Secretary misinterpreted policy and acted in a way which was incompatible with human rights legislation when denying two women ‘childcare resettlement leave’.
Mr Clarke ‘fettered his discretion’ by applying a blanket policy without considering individual circumstances of prisoners, the judge added. She ruled against Mr Clarke at a High Court hearing in London after two women prisoners challenged decisions not to allow them to take the leave.
She ordered that decisions taken about the two women, who were not identified, must be reconsidered. Lawyers representing Mr Clarke were given seven days to consider an appeal application.
Childcare resettlement leave is a ‘type of temporary licence’ available to prisoners who had sole caring responsibility for a child under 16. It enabled prisoners to spend up to three days – plus nights – at home providing certain conditions are met.
The judge pointed out that both men and women prisoners are eligible but the judicial review challenge before her focused exclusively on the position of female prisoners.
The Justice Secretary was entitled to direct prison governors on relevant factors to consider in accordance with rules – although in practice governors take decisions on his behalf, she said.
Mrs Justice Lang heard legal argument from lawyers representing the two women and Mr Clarke at a hearing last month.
The judge said, in a written ruling handed down yesterday: ‘In my judgment, the Secretary of State acted unlawfully when reviewing and applying his policy on child resettlement leave.’ She said Mr Clarke misinterpreted policy by taking the view that child resettlement leave was only ever intended to be available to prisoners close to release.
He had ‘failed to have regard’ to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which enshrines a right to respect for private and family life – and acted in a way which was incompatible with Article 8 and with the Human Rights Act.
The judge said Mr Clarke had also fettered his discretion by applying a blanket policy without considering individual circumstances of prisoners. She said she did not consider it was ‘unduly onerous’ for prison bosses to have proper regard for individual applications for child resettlement leave.
The judge said Mr Clarke should reconsider his decisions on the two women within six weeks but she would consider granting him leave to appeal against her ruling.
Mrs Justice Lang gave details about the two women who mounted the legal challenge but did not identify them. The judge said one woman was given a 10-year sentence after being convicted of conspiring to import cocaine and was a prisoner at Downview jail in Sutton, Surrey. She was the sole carer of three children aged between four and 13, said the judge.
The second woman had been given a 14-year sentence after being convicted of importing cocaine and was also at Downview. She was the sole carer of her 15-year-old daughter, said the judge.
For once, Richard Dawkins is lost for words
Atheists’ arrogance is their Achilles’ heel, as a cringemaking radio performance has proved
By Stephen Pollard
Which of us hasn’t groaned when the Rev Giles Fraser, former canon of St Paul’s, pops up with his Thought for the Day on Radio 4? Dr Fraser is the archetypal 21st-century vicar, as predictably Lefty as he is drearily on-trend. That “former” prefix is because, you’ll recall, he resigned after welcoming the Occupy protesters to his cathedral. And since leaving St Paul’s he has, in a form of caricature made flesh, become a Guardian leader writer. But I take it all back. Giles Fraser, you are now my hero.
In a discussion on the Today programme yesterday, Dr Fraser skewered the atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins so fabulously, so stylishly, and so thoroughly that anti-religion’s high priest was reduced to incoherent mumbling and spluttering.
The two men were debating some new figures produced by Prof Dawkins’s think tank, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. (A typical Dawkins touch: not just any old Foundation for Reason and Science but the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.) The statistics purport to show that most people who identify themselves as Christian turn out, when questioned on what they actually think, to be “overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on issues ranging from gay rights to religion in public life”. Dawkins’s conclusion is that these self-identified Christians are “not really Christian at all”.
If you were trying to come up with a definition of misplaced intellectual arrogance, you could not do better than having the planet’s most famous atheist issuing diktats on who does and doesn’t count as a proper Christian. Prof Dawkins then announced, triumphantly, that an “astonishing number [of Christians] couldn’t identify the first book in the New Testament”.
The transcript of the next minute or so only hints at how cringingly, embarrassingly bad it was for Dawkins.
Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of The Origin Of Species, I’m sure you could tell me that.
Dawkins: Yes I could.
Fraser: Go on then.
Dawkins: On the Origin of Species…Uh…With, oh, God, On the Origin of Species. There is a sub-title with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.
It was a golden minute of radio. But as well as being hilarious, it was hugely symbolic. In The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Baroness Warsi highlighted the militant secularism on the march in Britain. But as Dr Fraser revealed, the atheist army is led by an embarrassingly feeble general. The arrogance and intolerance of the atheists, exemplified by Prof Dawkins, is their Achilles’ heel.
Last week’s court decision to ban prayers at the start of council meetings is all of a piece. The judge may or may not have got the law right – there will almost certainly be an appeal. But it is the National Secular Society which, in taking its case to court to have its views imposed on the rest of us, is responsible for the ban on Christians praying.
As a Jewish schoolboy, I had to sit through Christian prayers at the end of every assembly. It would not have occurred to me or any other Jew I knew that we should try to stop them praying in front of us. We were a small minority at a school with a large majority of Christians. I simply sat silently, my mind wandering off to other things.
The militant secularists, however, have only one modus operandi – attack. Respect for others’ views seems to be entirely missing from their moral calculus.
They entirely miss the irony of their position. Religious leaders who focus solely on a sectarian appeal to their own followers, and who seek to raise their own standing by diminishing the views of others, end up on the margins of serious debate. And as their noise drowns out the quieter, less confrontational majority, they act against their own religion’s interest.
We all hear about Muslim leaders issuing fatwas against homosexuals, preaching hate and the extermination of the Jews. But who hears of an Imam who is a credit to their religion?
And yet the extremists are merely a flipside of the atheists. Their actions, too, are entirely negative, aimed at winning plaudits from fellow atheists and in the process poisoning the rest of society against them. We wait in vain for a high-profile atheist to acknowledge that we can all learn from some religious leaders, even if we do not share their faith. The past two Chief Rabbis have shown the benefits of a more open approach, reaching beyond one’s own followers. Lord Jakobovits and Lord Sacks have been feted far outside the Jewish community. Neither were ennobled because they were Chief Rabbi; none of their predecessors had been so honoured. Their elevation to the Upper House was because many gentiles regarded them as figures who had something exceptional to contribute to public life. Where is that contribution from atheists? We’ve had nothing but negativity from Richard Dawkins. And he is now, after yesterday’s intellectual savaging, a busted flush.
The shale revolution and Britain
The weather conditions of the past week could not have been better conceived to show up the inadequacies of Britain’s — and the rest of Europe’s — energy policy. A vast anticyclone extending from Siberia to eastern England has brought snow as far south as Rome and temperatures of minus 40˚C to Eastern Europe. With North Sea gas production in sharp decline, never has Europe’s position on the end of a long gas pipeline originating in Russia been so exposed.
As that country’s demand for energy has spiked, so the quantity of gas which it is prepared to export to the rest of Europe — also gagging for extra energy — has slumped. The wholesale price of gas has soared by more than a third in a week. Were electricity companies not still able to substitute some gas-generating capacity with coal-fired power — from plants due to be closed in 2016 to meet carbon-reduction targets — we could well find ourselves struggling to keep the lights on. Try as we might, we are not going to achieve national energy security with any presently known renewable technologies, as they are too expensive and unreliable. It is conceivable that we could achieve it, however, by means of a vast but hitherto unexploited resource: shale gas.
The vast reserves of gas concealed in shale have long been known about, but until recently there was no economic means to extract them. Over the past five years, however, the situation has changed dramatically, thanks to a method of hydraulically fracturing rock along its seams — or ‘fracking’ for short. While Britain and Europe have been throwing hundreds of billions in subsidies at renewable energy, the US shale gas industry has expanded to account for one quarter of all the country’s gas production — all without subsidies. In doing so it has caught many environmentalists completely unawares. The energy-scarce world of their dreams has been put off for a couple of centuries at least; instead we are staring at a future of potential energy abundance.
Moreover, exploitation of shale gas is not at odds with carbon reduction policies: kilowatt for kilowatt, energy generated from shale gas emits only half as much carbon as coal — the energy source which it is already beginning to replace in many American states. It is estimated that $4 spent on shale delivers the same energy as $25 spent on oil Even Barack Obama has belatedly started to extol the virtues of shale: little wonder, given that a shale-driven glut of natural gas has halved US electricity prices. Over the last three years, more than 4,000 wells have been drilled in the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania.
Early indications are that Europe may be no less fortunate in its reserves than the US. Current estimates are that the continent has 630 trillion cubic feet of shale; not far behind the US’s potential of 862 trillion cubic feet. Britain’s recoverable reserves are estimated at 20 trillion cubic feet, which will produce perhaps enough energy for the next 100 years. This is, to put it mildly, a claim that cannot be made about Britain’s wind farms. And this is what infuriates the environmental lobby: the discovery of shale threatens to make redundant their carefully planned, heavily subsidised plans for renewable energy. There may be no energy crisis after all.
Fracking is not a pretty process: it involves drilling a large well and then pumping large quantities of water and sand down it in order to fracture the appropriate strata of rock. Once the rock is fractured, gas can seep into the well and be forced to the surface. But it isn’t anything like as hazardous as environmentalists — in a repeat of the fantasy and exaggeration which characterised the campaign against GM foods a decade ago — like to claim.
Another fear is that fracking causes earth tremors. True, a couple of very minor tremors — of the sort that occur in Britain hundreds of times a year — do appear to have been caused by test-drilling near Blackpool, the epicentre of an embryonic British fracking industry which is now temporarily stalled as a result. But then coal-mining also causes minor earth tremors. It is a problem to be managed, not to be used as a reason to close down an entire industry. Mike Stephenson, head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, said that ‘most geologists think this is a pretty safe activity’ because ‘the risk is pretty low and we have the scientific tools to tell if there is a problem’.
In the 1990s, Britain allowed environmentalist propaganda to obliterate Britain’s foothold in the GM food industry. Far from keeping Britain GM-free, as the environmental lobby fantasised, we ended up eating GM soya imported from the US — and nobody has suffered as a result. All that the campaign achieved was to ensure that Britain will not profit from the technology.
The same must not be allowed to happen with shale gas. At present, more people die from the cold in Britain — because they are unable to afford to heat their houses — than are killed on the roads. This is an appalling state of affairs for a supposedly rich country. Britain could be on the cusp of a new era of clean, cheap shale energy — but only if we seize the opportunity, as the Americans have.
Study at Cambridge? Better to have fun in Bangor, says British teacher in controversial article
A state college teacher provoked fury last night after admitting he tried to deter an ‘aggravating’ bright pupil from applying to Cambridge.
Jonny Griffiths, 51, wrote an article for a teachers’ journal describing how he told the boy to ‘enjoy being 17’ and target Bangor University instead.
The remarks, by a senior maths teacher at a sixth-form college in Norfolk, drew widespread condemnation last night, with Tory MPs accusing him of perpetuating a ‘culture of low expectations’.
Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said: ‘Teachers should be doing all they can to help keen students get ahead.
‘I am horrified to hear of an enthusiastic student being discouraged from aiming for the top.’ Mr Griffiths, who teaches at Paston College, in North Walsham, last night claimed he intended to give the boy a ‘jolt’ and ‘a better chance of realising his potential’.
But he went on to criticise the practice of ‘parading’ bright students who win places at Cambridge.
‘Sometimes a weaker student will work really hard to win a place at a “less good” university, while a bright student will hardly break sweat to get a place at Cambridge,’ he said.
‘It is the bright student who is paraded before the local papers. I’m not sure that’s right.’ In his article, Mr Griffiths told how a boy named Michael came to his office at 4pm to discuss his A-level grades. The pupil had been clocking up A grades in maths papers but had recently made ‘silly mistakes’.
Mr Griffiths wrote that ‘driven’ and ‘obsessed’ pupils could be just as ‘draining’ and ‘aggravating’ as their demotivated classmates.
The boy then revealed he had his ‘heart set on’ getting an A in maths but was concerned his performance was slipping.
Mr Griffiths admitted to telling him: ‘Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-level?’
The article continued: ‘His Bambi eyes look at me in a bewildered way, as if he has just seen me kick a puppy. “I mean I care, of course,” I add, swiftly. “But what is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or to go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?”’
He then told a ‘stunned’ Michael he was ‘gold dust’ to be fought over by university maths departments and employers and to ‘enjoy being 17’.
The student who attends Paston College said that students obsessed with bettering themselves are often as detrimental in a class as disruptive pupils
The pupil subsequently got an answer wrong in class but seemed unconcerned, Mr Griffiths noted.
Last night he told the Daily Mail he was using a specific approach to help a ‘very anxious’ boy. ‘People seem to think I would treat every bright student this way. It is not true at all,’ he said. ‘If Cambridge is where you want to go, then I will do everything I can to help you get there.’
He added that the incident he was referring to happened in 2004 and the boy went on to get As in maths and further maths before progressing to Warwick University.
Mr Griffiths said his remarks had been coloured by his own experience studying maths at Cambridge in the 1970s, which he found ‘as dry as dust’.
But critics said he risked trampling on the boy’s ambitions and misleading him over his choices. Mrs Truss warned: ‘This is a symptom of the disgraceful culture of low expectations that holds many back.’
Political commentator Iain Martin accused Mr Griffiths of ‘smug shamelessness’, adding: ‘Surely there is a way of calming the young man down without upending his ideas about attainment and aspiration?’
Prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease: ECT, nicotine, caffeine
The article below is by a Professor of Theoretical Medicine and, as for most medical people, his villain is “Big Pharma”. I doubt that. The manic enthusiasm for new “discoveries” I see in the medical literature is the coloured person in the woodpile, as far as I can see. Aside from that one tic, however, the article seems of great interest
Some reflections on Parkinson’s disease, and the related Lewy body dementia; which are the second most common cause of degenerative brain disease (after Alzheimer’s) – increasingly common in the developed world, probably due to the ‘ageing population’.
The current medical treatment of Parkinson’s disease seems to be extremely poor.
It is based around L-dopa, which seems to be a miracle cure at first, for a short time, but then almost always produces severe side effects and/or loses its effect.
It looks as if L-dopa is just too powerful a drug (almost a pure neurotransmitter), and the brain responds by ‘fighting’ the drug – i.e. the brain’s homeostatic mechanisms are seriously destabilised by L-dopa, and the patient veers between hyperstimulation and ‘freezing’.
On the other hand, electroconvulsive therapy/ ECT/ electroshock has been shown to be effective in some patients with Parkinson’s disease in numerous trials – yet this fact is virtually unknown.
ECT is a much safer treatment than L-dopa. And even if it wasn’t, Parkinson’s is an extremely severe and debilitating illness – indeed people have had experimental brain surgery and transplant procedures (albeit with little success) for Parkinson’s.
So there seem no valid reason not to try a course of ECT in Parkinson’s, and maintenance ECT if it produces significant benefit.
There is very strong evidence (mostly from studies of tobacco smoking) that nicotine is preventive of Parkinson’s disease, and sometimes helps treat it. This is rational, given that nicotine indirectly increases dopamine activity.
Nicotine can be safely given with skin patches with minimal side effects (for most people).
Why is nicotine not used in prevention/ early-treatment of Parkinson’s? Why is it not even tried?
There is also evidence that caffeine (coffee) is preventive of Parkinson’s disease, and there is also a rationale for this because caffeine is a mild psychostimulant with dopamine boosting actions.
So, in Parkinson’s disease we have a very serious and common disease with hopeless conventional treatment – we have in ECT a powerful treatment which almost certainly helps some people, even with severe PD – and we have in nicotine and caffeine two non-prescription treatments which almost certainly prevent the illness, and improve the early stage of the illness.
Why are they virtually unknown, why don’t people try them?
Obviously, if they are tried and they don’t work, or make things worse; then stop. But why not try, especially when current treatment is so bad?
With ECT there is a very obvious prejudice against the treatment – a fear and horror which is ignorantly and dishonestly stimulated.
At root, probably this is because ECT is opposed by Big Pharma who want people to take ineffective/ harmful medication instead of an effective physical treatment. Drugs are marketed to the tune of 1000 dollars per head of population in the USA. IN a competitive world, with a rate of turnover and change, simply by not being marketed, agents drop out of use.
With nicotine and caffeine there is the problem (folk belief, media manipulation) that these drugs are supposed to be ‘bad for you’ according to the mainstream mass media ideas of ‘health promotion’. There is therefore an underlying discomfort in recommending for health reasons a lifestyle or treatment associated with smoking and drinking strong coffee.
Whatever the reasons, the complete uninterest in effective treatment for people with very severe, common, debilitating, distressing, progressive disease is altogether typical of modern society.
Contrary to what might be imagined, modernity cares little for functionality, is all-but indifferent to effectiveness.
So it really is possible for effective, safe and available treatments of a common and severe illness to languish, unused; despite that anyone with Google Scholar could find out about them in five minutes…
This is the actuality of the information revolution: knowledge hidden in plain sight.