Antony Lempert in Bishops Castle, 20 November

Dr. Antony Lempert, Chair of the U.K. Secular Medical Forum, will be discussing what is lost to medical practice through the influence of religion and he will consider how religious belief distorts current accepted attitudes to medical care. His talk draws on some of the many narratives of secular thought and opinion – the stories of blasphemers, witches, heretics, infidels and apostates – which have been lost or minimised in popular discourse, and relates this back to our own time and to the influence of religion in society.

The lecture is scheduled for 6.30 pm Tuesday 20th November at the YouCaxton Shop in Bishop’s Castle.

(This talk is not connected to Shropshire Humanist Group.)

Relief for Shrewsbury cardiologist under libel threat

The science journal Nature reports:

Contentious libel action ends as medical company folds – April 20, 2011

The medical company suing cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst in a high profile libel case has folded.

NMT Medical said in a statement yesterday that has entered into an ‘Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors’, an alternative to bankruptcy where the company assigns its assets to an individual for liquidation and distribution.

The company’s libel actions against Wilmshurst have become a cause célèbre among those pushing for reform of England’s laws (who count Nature among their supporters).

Wilmshurt says fighting the case has cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds and it is unclear how much he will be able to reclaim.

His solicitor Mark Lewis said (in a statement released by campaign group Index on Censorship), “It looks like the nightmare is nearly over. After 4 years NMT looks to have gone out of business. Poor Dr Wilmshurst. The continual deployment of the libel laws to stop scientific discussion seems to be over. Peter Wilmshurst and his family enter the normal world blinking from the bright light of a case that is over.”

Libel news

There is an update on the legal harassment of Shrewsbury hospital consultant Dr Peter Wilmshurst here:

If you haven’t signed the petition for libel reform, please do so.

Meeting report: Assisted Dying

On 25th June, Shropshire Humanist Group organised a meeting to look at the complex issue of Assisted Dying.  A group whose views represented practically the whole spectrum of opinion on this topic listened with great interest to a presentation by Simon Nightingale, a consultant neurologist, on the current situation.

He explored the meaning of the phrase `assisted dying’ and outlined the legal situation currently where `assisting suicide’ is a crime whereas `not preventing suicide’ is not. The proposed changes to the law, he pointed out, had inconsistencies and there were phrases such as `terminal’ and `unbearable distress’ which are open to more than one interpretation.

Moral questions involved in the subject include the instinctive human opposition to killing another, questions of personal autonomy and arguments about the `slippery slope’ from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia.  And, although a majority of public opinion is in favour of changing the law, Simon suggested that the number of people such a change might affect is really very low.

There were several doctors in the audience, as well as members of Dignity in Dying, and there was a spirited discussion about the `double effect option’, where higher doses of a pain-killing drug are given to patients with terminal disease, which may in fact (but won’t necessarily) shorten their life.

The fear that attends the idea of terminal illness was felt to be a large factor in people’s wish to have assisted dying as a legal option. But the medics suggested that in their experience, with good palliative care, the reality was in the main quite different and that `quality of life’ was not something which could be judged by other people. We were reminded, too, that doctors and their diagnoses are fallible.

Probably nobody’s mind was changed by taking part in this discussion, but all points of view were listened to with equal respect and everyone found it a thought-provoking and informative evening.

Sue Falder

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