December 2012
21 December 2012 ~  Derek Keilloh Struck Off

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has found a former army doctor  guilty of misconduct over the death of Baha Mousa, who was tortured to death by British soldiers. Derek Keilloh was deemed to be unfit after a panel concluded that he had acted in a dishonest way and had failed to protect other men who were being mistreated. Guardian report.

I contributed in 2007 to a Statement on Torture issued by the UK Council for Psychotherapy. It includes the following.

What ... many are concerned about is the likelihood of conflicting loyalties, for example, between a code of ethics and the expectations of colleagues and superiors not governed by or ignoring ethical considerations. Few psychologists or health professionals would join an organisation in order to assist torture yet, in certain circumstances, people may change their initial pattern of responding to unprincipled behaviours.

UKCP believes that the dangers of this happening are greater in closed groups such as intelligence communities; in units encouraged to see themselves as elite or providing services "vital" to security; in centres of detention, especially those overseas or otherwise remote; when there is generalised fear and suspicion, as when working with those suspected of terrorism; and when there is either inducement from senior personnel to ignore human rights or a lack of meaningful oversight. Given the above, there should be special concerns and measures for health professionals and psychologists working in close proximity to interrogators.

Lifton stated that American health professionals at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were undoubtedly aware of their ethical responsibility to document injuries and raise questions about them. But the medics were part of environment "... so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities." The command structure permitted, encouraged, and sometimes orchestrated torture to a degree that it became the norm to which all personnel were expected to comply.

The UKCP's opposition to torture and awareness of factors contributing to the corruption of ethical standards is made very clear  in the statement. However, not all bodies representing health professionals have taken such a strong stance.

A few days a go I read statements of support for Derek Keilloh after news of the tribunal's findings first appeared. Along with the racist rubbish was one from a current patient saying what a wonderful GP Keilloh had been. Perhaps Dr Mengele also had a good bedside manner when treating Aryans rather than  experimenting on concentration camp inmates?

19 December 2012  ~  The Book of Lies  Recommended Novel

Among the novels I read for the first time this year The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock is the one I have most enjoyed. It provides two interlinked tales set on Guernsey during WWII and forty years later. Both tales have as central characters disgruntled adolescents. Catherine in particular, writing in 1985, captures the enormous pressures teenagers can experience.

Horlock has said part of her inspiration came from her rediscovered teenage diaries. However, her male adolescents are also compelling.

She uses the small island that is Guernsey and its dramatic coastline to add to the tension.  At times I felt like I was eavesdropping on the long-protected secrets of a population scarred by the German occupation that only added to their sense of being alone in the world.

Both tales contain interesting twists.

December 2012  ~  Medical vs. Social Model

An email came in response to my piece in August called Psychiatric Star Gazing. The correspondent cited a 2007 editorial by two psychiatrists called The medical model is dead – long live the medical model. I recommend the article for anyone interested in the issue of power in medicine and especially within psychiatry. I also recommend reading the on line responses that follow the editorial, in particular the contributions  by Shaw and Julyan.

I put together a one-page handout for mental health volunteers in 2005 called  Medical versus Social Model, which I have added to the Ephemera page. 

December 2012  ~  If Cats Wrote the Bible

If Cats Wrote the Bible has appeared this month in The Freethinker. The magazine is  available on line as well as in print, but for screen reading you may find the pdf version easier.

My short story is based on the first part of Genesis and owes its origin to a comment Sue made over breakfast earlier this year as we watched Lola, one of our two cats, in the garden studying the birds. Lola is an avid hunter and frequently brings live mice into the house during autumn. Sue remarked that Lola regarded the garden as if everything in it had been created for her.

I have learned to catch mice myself. Lola always announces her arrival in the hall with prey by giving a distinctive chirrup. She usually lets the mouse go and stands over waiting for it to move. I keep a transparent takeaway dish and a piece of hardboard handy. The dish goes over the mouse, Lola is shut in another room, I slide the hardboard underneath and transport to the garden.  Sometimes this takes little more than a minute.  If the mouse hides, e.g. under the refrigerator, we use two humane traps.

If we are not at home when Lola brings in prey mayhem ensues. Once Sue bent down to pick up what she thought was a rosebud on the hall rug. It was the head of a mouse. We never found the rest of it.

Photo of Lola

The Freethinker has a website other than the one used for copies of the magazine.

7 December 2012  ~  Max Clifford and Stuart  Hall

Let me begin by saying I have no knowledge of either Max or Stuart other than what has appeared in the media. This is not about their guilt or innocence relating to charges that have not been heard in court.

Stuart Hall was pretty much a non-entity as far as I was concerned. I couldn't recall hearing him on radio or seeing him on TV. I found myself responding to the reports of child abuse with a "let's wait and see" attitude.

The news about Max Clifford, however, shocked me. When I thought about my reaction I realised that I had formed a favourable  opinion of the man without ever meeting him or speaking to anyone who knew him well. And yet I dislike much of his business; part of his fortune has come from supplying the tabloids with salcious prattle. What had overcome these reservations were the media mentions of how he cared for his disabled daughter. Again, I have no real knowledge of Max's relationships with his family.

What I do know is that he is a consummate publicist. On reflection, I would be very surprised if he had not called in favours from editors and journalists to create an image that went some way to ameliorate the public's opinion of him.  I put my hand up to being taken by this.

With regard to Jimmy Saville's PR while he was alive, it never changed my dislike of the bleached blond blinger. I prefer my charity heroes to come with considerably less ego and more dress sense. The stories about his predation when they came out, while shocking, did not altogether surprise me. Not because I was one those privy to the scandals before the deluge, but simply because more often than not when he appeared on TV he gave me the creeps.

And yet my dislike of Jimmy before his disgrace was based on prejudice no less than my opinion of Max Clifford.