2007 - 2020

Post-Modern Eugenics: Is Culling the Elderly Now State Policy?

Eugenics is not a comfortable word, which explains why it is being avoided by those cultivating a climate of opinion in which the old should be ‘let go’ in the current coronavirus pandemic. They’re an easy target. Largely economically non-productive, they can be portrayed as a burden on state revenues, even when they aren’t. Many occupy houses which could accommodate young families. Others are poor and dependent on state support. A number of them have co-morbidities – dicky hearts, wheezy lungs, hypertension – which puts a strain on the stretched resources of the health service even on a good day. Coronavirus has become the Malthusian cream on the toxic coffee. Surely the numbers can be thinned just a little bit, some seem to feel. Think of the fiscal benefits.

Naturally, singling out the retired provides useful cover for the failure of others. The greatest failure, right now, is the shocking lack of preparation for a health emergency which we have known was coming since December last year. Our political classes, of course, had other things on their precious minds. Like the Brexit disaster, or Labour’s tortuous leadership process.

UK preparations for the COVID-19 crisis, which epidemiologists have been warning about since it first hit Wuhan, could best be described as a dream of misty optimism. China was a long way away, and most of us knew nothing of that city bigger than London. Meanwhile over 100,000 Chinese students were about to return to UK universities after the Christmas break, while Chinese visitors poured in after the introduction of more direct Beijing flights in 2019.

Despite this our political masters slept on, waking up now and again, as on Friday March 13th, when Scottish rugby fans who’d traveled to Cardiff were told the game was off, though the Cheltenham Gold Cup went ahead that same day, despite warnings. Not so many days earlier minister Matt Hancock was stating there would be ‘no clinical benefit’ to cancelling such events, a mantra echoed by Government Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Radio 4’s Today programme.

This crisis is no bolt from the blue. The coronavirus was discovered in the 1960s by Glasgow-born scientist June Almeida, while former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King advocated putting a pandemic preparation process in place as early as 2006. By 2015 Bill Gates was speaking out passionately about the inevitability of a global pandemic while the political classes failed to listen, lulled by the fact that Ebola was largely confined to rural West Africa (and Scottish nurse Pauline McCafferty) where it killed ‘only’ just over 10,000. A similar complacency had accompanied the 2002 SARS outbreak, which caused no more than 774 deaths worldwide.

The defining feature of the UK government’s approach recalls the folly of Mr Micawber – let’s just hope something turns up. Much faith is placed in a breakthrough vaccine. There are around 50 of these currently under study, but only one so far – a formula from Boston-based Moderna – has passed its phase one trials, out of three, before it proceeds to full-scale human trials which would allow it to be licensed for general use. Nothing will be happening inside 18 months, which would be a record. It normally takes ten years to develop a vaccine against a new pathogen.

That leaves UK public policy-making in a bit of a mess, to put it mildly. The gaffe by Matt Hancock about the alleged profligacy of NHS staff making free with their personal protection equipment has provoked fury, though whether that’s any worse than a view previously expressed by acting leader, Dominic Raab, that British workers were amongst the worst idlers in the world is a moot point.

Throw in Priti Patel and Liz Truss and it’s patently obvious that the present government is, to say the least, ambivalent on matters of compassion. The truly worrying thing, however, is the way a growing consensus that the elderly should be regarded as disposable is permeating our general public discourse. Even the erudite and liberal-minded Professor Margaret MacMillan was subscribing to this belief on Any Questions, claiming that over seventies ‘were not productive members of society, were not the people we need to get the economic engines going again, and we tend to be more vulnerable, so we should stay out of the way and let others get on with it.’

Dangerous talk indeed, even if she does express her point of view from a personal perspective. Or I hope she does. It wouldn’t be too good if she was talking for over-seventies in general, for it appears that Professor MacMillan is coming close to condoning the disempowerment, gaslighting, and creeping liquidation of her own generation, which is astonishing, if not alarming.

There is, of course, a case to be made for leaving a ninety year old whose functions would soon be shutting down in any event, with or without coronavirus, to drift off into oblivion. Arguably, it would be a cruelty to perpetuate the suffering of such an individual. The words of Florence Nightingale’s secretary, Arthur Hugh Clough – ‘Thou shalt not kill; but needs not strive officiously to keep alive’ – offer ethically robust guidance in such circumstances, and make sense, yet those of us in the ‘don’t kill the old’ lobby needn’t be dismissed as flaky Californian life extensionists just because we think some of the elderly have as much right to life as anyone else.

The terms of reference are not always easy to grasp. Sure, when the trumpet sounds, we are bidden – but what exactly is old? In this particular debate (if it can be dignified with such a word) I have heard it said that the over sixties fit the category. This slippery slope of reasoning needn’t just affect the old. What of those with learning difficulties, spina-bifida, motor neuron disease, or anorexia?

Who, in any case, will make the choices? Take two random names; Sir David Attenborough, 93, or Kim Kardashian, not quite 40. No offence intended Miss Kardashian, but isn’t Sir David doing rather more for our planet? Which one can we least afford to lose? This could almost be a parlour game. Lord Peter Hennessy, a sprightly 72; Katie Hopkins, a boorish 45. Must Peter be sacrificed for Katie? Lord Winston, 80 next birthday or D-lister Josie Cunningham? And so on ad infinitum.

Far from being unproductive, some of the old just keep on working. Who could not be impressed by Nicholas Parsons, who died in January at 96, having recorded his last Just a Minute months earlier. Nor was he the record holder. That prize goes to the Indian vocalist Ushtad Rashid Khan, who was teaching his class in the Kolkata Music Institute only hours before his death in 2017, aged 107.

The old are not only a vulnerable group. They are a target group. They are being passively denigrated in a variety of ways, whether it’s the BBC’s sacking of long service financial journalist Mickey Clark, or the do not resuscitate procedure applied to a friend of mine in his sixties in April when he succumbed to coronavirus. We are invited to apply a measure of value to human life which is both arbitrary and discriminatory. This is a betrayal of our humanity.

Eugenics was never limited to the Third Reich’s elimination of the disabled, the homosexual, and the Jewish. Nor was it merely of interest to the likes of Henry Cabot Lodge, with his Anglo-Saxon ‘Teutonic Germ Theory’ of a pure America predicated largely on a paranoid fear of 19th century immigration of Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholics, Jews, and Chinese.

It is the subject of conversation here and now, in Britain – only you won’t find the word being used. Our ruling establishment screwed up on tests, ventilators, and PPE for health workers, but increasingly the COVID-19 catastrophe is being depicted as somehow the fault of the elderly, and their crime is being alive.

‘A true measure of any society’ declared Mahatma Gandhi ‘Can be found in how its treats its most vulnerable members.’ We are now being put to the test, and I fear we are at risk of failing it.

 

Comments (42)

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  1. Rosalyn Wyer says:

    I am 76 and diabetic though presently in good health. If there was one ventilator left in England and two people who needed it, I sincerely believe it should go to the person who be most valuable to the community post covid 19 – and that wouldn’t be me.

    1. Imelda says:

      They have invented a ventilator in Galway which can be used by two patients at the same time. So don’t be worrying about giving it up for the younger patients Rosyln

    2. W.T.Low says:

      Rosalyn no one should have to make that choice. How would they know? If post Covid 19 your life would be of less value to the community, then no life after Covid 19 is of value to the community. The government has failed – due to lacking in competence, ideology and basic humanity. Stay safe take care – do not let them have the choice

      Bill

    3. Kevin Hattie says:

      How do you define ‘valuable’?

    4. Liz Summerfield says:

      The Queen will be celebrating her 94th birthday shortly. Prince Philip is 98. Even Prince Charles is only 9 months younger than me. And every MP and member of the Lords is either 0ver 60 or has parents of that age still living. I’d sure as hell opt for that ventilator for myself over any of them.

  2. W.T.Low says:

    Well Boris did indicate after his election that he had a strategy for social care. One is left pondering. Many years ago I trained in Microbiology. We knew then how to manage a pandemic. Of course there were many older people who had had to manage outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, polio, smallpox etc. Not withstanding the warnings that earlier knowledge seems to have been lost. Even the disgraced Medical Officer suggested that Cheltenham was OK as people were outside!!! Had the woman never been to a race meeting before? One could wax lyrical about the multitude of failings in the current climate. What it comes down to is that the market approach has failed significantly in health care. Remember 94% of care homes are privately owned. Where was their stock of protection? If the government could not carry sufficient stock for the NHS, what chance did the care homes have?

    The Tories never wanted the health service in the first place and since Thatcher they have done a very good job in dismantling it. Aneurin Bevan was right when he said that ‘they are lower than vermin.’

    Bill

  3. Concerned Citizen says:

    You should look at the Scottish Government advice on what should happen to people who catch COVID-19 in care homes. The policy seems to be “keep them in the home because it’s not worth treating them.” Someone I know got a letter from their parent’s GP saying exactly that – the government said not to bother with hospitalisation because there was a low chance of survival. That’s why there have been so many clusters of deaths in care homes. Staff have no PPE so they can’t isolate anyone properly and nobody’s being removed from the homes to hospitals to potentially break the chains of transmission. It’s not quite mass murder, but it’s crossing the road to avoid having to deal with the problem. It’s an absolute scandal that needs to be addressed, but I see not a single journalist even mentioning it.

    1. Rosie Holleran says:

      I think you are wrong here regarding Scot Govt policy. I read an article today that explained these letters came from a GP practice and is not supported by Govt guidelines.

    2. Bewilderment Rules says:

      Firstly, very Left Wing, anti Tory bias based article here…

      So, you won’t see anyone at all commenting on the Scottish policy, as it’s not a Tory led adjenda.

      Problem in all of this was hit bang on the head in the early paragraphs of the article… 100,000 students allowed in from China, along with many others, not only from China, but also other heavily infected parts of the world…

      Why? Well, largely due to rampaging liberalism, where any form of border control was seen as racist /xenophobic. Evidence of this was plain for all of us to see, in the instance Trump shut the door on Chinese travel into the US (20,000 per day up to 31st January). Even the WHO got in on the act, advising for some bizarre reason that shutting borders would not help… What imbecile honesty belied that pathetic rhetoric? Many it would appear, even the nasty old Tories.

      Now, whilst I am no fan of Trump, the only thing he did right was close the door on China, albeit far too late. It then took him over a month more to close the door on most of the Schengen areas of Europe, much to the uproar of the Liberally minded…

      So, with all of the hullabaloo over shutting down the borders to know infected States, which leader wanted to be known as Trump Mark II? None, and there lies the biggest problem, or should I say CULPRIT…

      Funny how the massively Liberal New Zealand leadership is not taking flak for shutting the door on foreigners entering the country, and where they do, a strict programme of quarantining and then testing before being released into the country. Strangely, this policy is WORKING for the people of New Zealand.

      So, yes the Tories have been totally inept all the way through this crisis, one that had the correct controls been put in place early January 2020, we would not have been suffering from,. Clearly, the first line of defence was not taken. Astoundingly though, neither was any of the other actions needed once the epidemic was willingly imported into the UK, such as obtaining appropriate PPE at the start of the que, not at the end, alongside the many measures now in place, but woefully all too late.

      Whilst what this (overtly Lefty) article refers to as Tory eugenics, the outcome is correct. However, what it fails to recognise is the cost of achieving this is significantly higher than any perceivable advantage it would likely facilitate. The damage to the UK economy will be felt for generations to come, long after the old and frail have departed this mortal coil of more natural causes.

      Finally, anyone who believes that the Shambolic Labour Party would have delt with this crisis any better, is frankly delude. Had Corbyn won the December election, the entire party would have been knee deep in arguing how to re-nationalise various currently privately run companies… and Diane Abbott would have been in charge of the borders… While Corbyn runs every decision past the membership for more debate, before implementation of any plans are put into action.

      With a small semblance of common sense, combined with the courage to tough out flack from the drippy liberal quarters, we could have all been in such a different place right now….

      1. Kevin Hattie says:

        Your main argument seems to be:

        (1) We should have shut the borders earlier to prevent the spread of the virus.
        (2) The main reason we didn’t shut the borders earlier is because of rampant liberalism.
        (3) Therefore, rampant liberalism is to blame for us failing to prevent the spread of the virus.

        You then postulate that the reason rampant liberalism is to blame is because it labels any attempt to implement strict border controls as “racist/xenophobic”.

        I can accept your first premise. From my limited knowledge about global pandemics and how to handle them, I’d say it seems sensible to prevent people coming into the country from areas that have many positive cases of the disease/virus.

        I find your second premise and conclusion suspect, though. Firstly, I think the government has shown a great deal of complacency, especially during the earlier periods of the outbreak. I think a better explanation for their reluctance to shut the borders to people from China etc is that they didn’t take matters seriously enough at the time. It took them a while to implement other important measures too, as you point out. I seem to recall a horse-racing event going ahead just before the banning of public gatherings and that causing a bit of controversy. There were also economic pressures to keep the borders open. Just take the students example: that’s a lot of money going to universities, landlords, local economies etc. I think this would have been more of a factor in the government’s reluctance to close the door on foreign students/workers than their fear of flack from liberal sectors of society. This is a government that have been courting Brexit-voters and continually pushing the ‘take back control’ mantra. A government lead by a man who hasn’t given a second thought to how his words and actions are perceived by the left. For them to suddenly become self-conscious about tightening border controls seems unlikely, in my opinion.

  4. Kevin Hattie says:

    A very thought-provoking article.

    It is interesting to see the older generation venerated for nationalistic purposes, when the war generation are cited as examples of Britain’s courage and resilience, and then at the same time, often by the same people, disregarded. Those in power seem only to think of people in very instrumental terms.

  5. w.b. robertson says:

    I am 83. Long before the virus pandemic broke I had a discussion with my GP about a medical problem that had shown up on scans. I decided that when the inevitable happened I should ensure DNR. We filled in the necessary form. It is about time that we all got real. None of us is immortal.

  6. Nick Kempe says:

    I agree with all the criticisms of the UK government but why not mention the Scottish Government which has followed exactly the same policies? It’s responsible , for example. for our universities (the students coming back from China point), our health service and the regulation of Care Homes and in ALL these areas could have acted independently and before the UK. The answer as to why it failed to do this lies, I suspect, the the way that Public Health in Scotland has been slashed just like the UK. Neo-liberal ideas about the minimal role of the state (and the cost of Older People who don’t have “independent means”) pervade the Scottish establishment just as much as the UK establishment.

    1. Robbie says:

      All the more reason for independence Nick, so we can all fight our own battles

      1. Bill says:

        The great fear of the SNP would be if Scotland achieved independence. Then there would be no need for the SNP= unless they changed tack and delivered on many of the issues that currently can be laid at the door of Westminster. Yes independence, of the people for the people and by the people will be the only way that we will get the society of which we can all be proud.

        Bill

    2. T.Allan says:

      I have voted SNP since the late 1970s and I have been a member of the SNP for quite a number of years. I am a believer in independence for Scotland and I cannot imagine a situation in the future when I will not continue to vote for the SNP. However, I have great sympathy for Nick Kempe’s point. Scotland has followed/accepted/acquiesced the UK Government’s lead which has so many failings that I won’t even try to list them here. I don’t need to. We all know them. This has been most disappointing given the implications of these UK led actions. The scientific and medical public faces of the the Scottish Government (no names quoted) have not helped reduce my concern. Often they do nothing more than repeat the dubious messages from the UK Government and that adds to my anger and anxiety for our people and our country. Not only has the UK Government not got a grip on the situation but our own Government is not much better. It is not difficult to find illustrations. For example PPE in Care Homes in Scotland and the mild but visible irritation shown by one of the panel participants (no name) in the daily briefing when yet again PPE issues are raised. Again there have been interviews with Scottish based care and care home carers who are clearly frightened and distressed about the PPE situation with regard to those to whom they provide care (and themselves). We have all seen these interviews with tears in our eyes. It is not good enough.

  7. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    When Boris the Baffoon was in St. Thomas’s Hospital he was moved to ‘Intensive Care’ to be close to a ventilator which in the end was not necessary. But, was a ventilator set aside for his use should it become necessary and what if that had been the last available ventilator and another patient required it or would it still be ‘reserved’ for the Baffoon one that we could do without?????

  8. John Mackenzie says:

    It is always so easy to pick on an easy target; to destroy takes a minute to build takes an hour in metaphorical terms and if we purport to be a civilised country then perhaps we should start behaving like one, tell the truth of a situation and stop fawning to short-term politicians who are watching their own backs rather than ours.

  9. Lorna Campbell says:

    Let’s face it: the way the Tories talk, you know there is little to no empathy for anyone except themselves and theirs, and even theirs, you feel, would be sacrificed to Mammon, if that’s what it took. I do believe it is a party that attracts the psychopathic and those, who although not true psychopaths, are lacking in empathy, in large numbers. Everything they do is predicated on costing the state the least, regardless of the cost to the individual, and they are, generally speaking, of course, those who earn the most, have ‘safe’ jobs with ‘safe’ salaries, own their own property and grudge even a modest shift in policy towards the poorest in society. The problem with the approach of ‘herd immunity’ is that, yes, it will cull the oldest and weakest and non-productive first (a bit like the extermination camps) but, eventually, those left are worked to death in terrible conditions, and, when they fall prey to disease and weakness are culled in their turn. That’s the trouble with growing old and sick and weak: everyone does it. In their prime, people think they are immortal, but the gods visit hubris upon mortals and remind them that they are anything but immortal. The other things that modern, global capitalist society has in common with the death camps, is that it is the young who are experimented upon, Mengele-fashion, so, when this is over, you can bet your bottom dollar that the young, especially, of the lower rungs of the societal ladder, will be scooped up and forced to endure ever-more bizarre and, ultimately, pointless and life-denying economic and social experiments in the name of political science, right-wing style. As the late Primo Levi said, of his time in the camps, what people are prepared to do to each other appears to be infinite, and that altruism was the real currency of life in the camps, not selfishness and death for others. All political systems are neutral, and it is the human element that translates them into good or bad, and that goes as much for Socialism, Communism, Nationalism, etc., as for Toryism and right-wing fascism and totalitarianism. We allow bad things to happen.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Lorna Campbell, you mention political science, something which I have a background in, but it should be rather obvious to anyone familiar with UK electoral politics that the Conservative Party relies on the votes of older people. Older people are over-represented among the people who voted this government in. The UK Parliament basically says as much in its demographic analysis of the 2019 general election, however the YouGov page has the prettier graph (the usual caveats about sampling techniques interpreting voting in a quasi-secret ballot apply):
      https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/17/how-britain-voted-2019-general-election
      So who are all these old Conservative voters who don’t care about old people? We do have evidence that older people are more likely to vote than the young. Indeed the issue of pension locks was long seen as the one of the most untouchable in UK politics. Even if empathy was not a feature of a Conservative outlook, why would the party be unconcerned about a disease that could kill off their electoral advantage, or about their performance failures seen as tarnishing their credibility amongst older voters?

      The UK may not be a gerontocracy, but older people are enormously over-represented in law-making and top law-interpreting capacities. The average age of members of the House of Lords is apparently 70.

      None of this was picked up in the article either. If this government is so bad, why does the article not blame all those old people who put it in power?

      1. Lorna Campbell says:

        SD: I would have to agree with a lot of that. However, as one gets older, one, generally speaking, gets more self-orientated, too, and also older people of the last couple of generations will be more inclined to vote, so, yes, the Tories would, I think stand to lose, initially. Having said that, have you noticed just how many Tory boys and girls there are in the younger generations? Recently, I have seen more and more of them out campaigning. To take my analogy of the camps further, look at the Third Reich: absolutely throbbing with young things desperate to show how loyal they were. Personally, in 2014, I met quite a few older voters who were as radical as you would wish and who were prepared to sacrifice their own future comfort just to see their younger family members, and others, get ahead after independence, so it kind of works both ways. I suppose there must be a political justification for the kind of rampant Toryism of the past forty odd years, but I fail to see it, but that could be me. I have known very decent people who were Tories. Small, local business people often voted Tory, but I think this brand of Toryism that has developed out of Thatcherism is quite a toxic brand that few old Tories recognize, albeit they continue to vote that way because they always have. Enlightened self-interest (as the vehicle) driven by the triple engines of altruism, democracy and justice cannot go far wrong. If any of them fail, society fails and people start to look for an alternative to what they have.

        Yesterday’s ‘The Scotsman’, which should probably be renamed the ‘Anti Scotsman’ had at least two letters from commentators that were so topsy-turvy as to be entertaining in their ridiculous ignorance. One, in particular, gave a litany of the goodies that flowed from the Union to Scotland in total contradiction to the reality, and it was all revisionist history, based on the English perspective, missing out the Scottish part altogether, including the Equivalence. It was laughable, except that many people would have swallowed it whole. Therein lies the rub: too many older people believe the nonsense that flows out of the Union; and they take what’s coming without a cheep, believing Westminster and the Tories know best. Educating our young people to question everything, to think for themselves is one of the ways we are going to slough off the skin of conformity and obedience that believes every nonsense that the propaganda machines can churn out. Another is to educate children that, one day, they, too will be old and die. Make it part of everyday existence: our life’s journey that no one escapes. Eventually, our politics will begin to reflect the reality of our human condition, rather than some old rubbish that is predicated on living forever and being able to take your worldly goods to the grave and beyond; no matter how much you acquire and accumulate, you are not going to be able to take it with you. You can pass it on to your children and grandchildren, of course, but that perpetuates the line of privilege, and they, in their turn are not going to live forever either or escape old age. I think sometimes, it is our earthly refusal to accept our eventual infirmity and mortality that makes humanity such a vicious, nasty and utterly selfish species. That is precisely what the Nazis, and, indeed, all imperialists, thought, and still think: that they could/can visit carnage and mayhem on others while, simultaneously believing, quite irrationally, in their own immortality. Boris Johnson went to a hospital full of Covid-19 patients, shook hands with them and chatted, gloveless and maskless, in the complete belief that he was immune. I think he was brought back down to Earth. As will those be who think that sacrificing large swathes of the population in the name of ideology is a jolly good wheeze.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Lorna Campbell, picking up on a couple of your points, there is a question raised by Angela Saini in her book Inferior: The True Power of Women and the Science that Shows It, chapter 8: The Old Women Who Wouldn’t Die. She asks why are many post-menopausal women vigorous, considering p213 “In almost every species, females die before they become infertile” including chimpanzees.

          Killer whales are an exception too.

          Saini illustrates the Grandmother hypothesis: the old women who offer protection against childbirth risks, help grandchildren survive. So it seems in humanity’s past, old women may have played important and beneficial social roles, including passing down knowledge and helping educate the young. The Brothers Grimm found older women were telling most of the formative tales to children.

          One of the problems with industrial cultures is possibly that women lost these roles to a significant extent, through various means (Henry VIII outlawed women physicians which seems to have had a cumulative negative effect over the centuries in Britain). Another problem for older teachers is that technology moves so fast that an older generation can seem out of touch (although this is not necessarily an accurate perception). Yet, older people who embrace lifelong learning often seem to have much to offer, especially those whose thinking has grown and changed over their lifetimes. When I studied psychology we were taught about ideas of mental set and no new brain cells, yet more recent research has found greater plasticity and regenerated brain capacity.

          So, I think we are still finding out about the capacities of old age; we are finding new ways to learn and new ways to augment thinking (individually and collectively) throughout life; and human nature is far more plastic and full of potential than was often thought in the past. And while the differences between XY and XX chromosome arrangements is still a fertile area of genetic research, we are perhaps less constrained by our genetic makeups than ever before. However, political science and perhaps public political thinking is still to catch up with developments, particularly as we turn our thoughts to global issues of how we should arrange to live our lives on our precious, threatened planet.

          1. Lorna Campbell says:

            SD: wouldn’t disagree with any of that. As a species, we are incredibly wasteful of the skills and talents of the marginalized – the poor, women, certain ethnic groups, the older members of our society, etc. If we are going to survive as a species and stop plundering the planet and other species, we are going to need every bit of ingenuity we can glean – and then some. If we refuse to change, we cannot survive. Darwin was right about that. You mention DNA and chromosomes. I am certainly no expert, but I have always felt that patriarchy served a purpose in a world that was, essentially, more ‘primitive’. The world we now inhabit needs more than mere brute strength and hard-bitten aggression, and the politics to match, and patriarchy stands in the way of that new world where a different model of masculinity and a new freedom for women to grow and develop as never before is now a requisite, not a choice. As we develop as a species, assuming we do survive, of course, it may become that the differences between the two sexes become more and more blurred. Same goes for ethnicity: it will matter less and less. We are still a long way from that, though, and people will have to fight their corner for a long while yet.

  10. SleepingDog says:

    It would have been advisable to find out what the word ‘eugenics’ means before writing this article.

  11. James McCarthy says:

    As an 84-year old with so-called ‘underlying health problems’ but apparently still compos mentis, I have no wish to extend my life span (having had a good innings)
    but would wish at the end to be treated with compassion and dignity. I do not envy the next generation(s) in attempting to provide this in the face of prevailing political attitudes focussed on neoliberal values

  12. florian albert says:

    ‘increasingly the COVID-19 catastrophe is being depicted as somehow the fault of the elderly, and their crime is being alive’

    David Black produces no worthwhile evidence for this assertion.
    There is a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
    For whatever reason, the virus is far, far more lethal for the elderly than the young.
    Despite this – contrary to what David Black implies – unprecedented measures are being taken; measures which are having an economic impact which is entirely without precedent.
    These measures are – to spell it out – being taken to protect the elderly and the already infirm.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      FA: you are right, of course. However, I think many of the Tory party have been forced to abandon, just for the time, being, their ugly ideology and start to act less like sociopaths and more like human beings who were elected to look after the interests of all their citizens, not just their own, and those of the people who donate massive wodges of cash to their party coffers. It is amazing what the shock of your own mortality can do. That and there thought of heads on spikes.

    2. david black says:

      DNR notices? care homes left to cope the best they can? Exhausted and under equipped NHS staff being forced to choose between patients? The statistics? Views expressed on air by people like the Professor quoted? The published statistics? (not to mention the unpublished ones). How much more evidence do you need? There are none so blind as those who will not see.

      1. florian albert says:

        DNR notices have been controversial since they started because their mere existence is seen by many as putting pressure on the vulnerable.
        Care homes have been run on the cheap for decades. It was inevitable that in a crisis such as this they would not be able to cope. There was no pressure – from voters – on political parties to change things.
        Similarly, the NHS has been buckling under the unprecedented pressure. The same applies to the health services in Italy, Spain France and Belgium.

        None of this amounts to evidence of eugenics or of culling.

  13. john w shaw says:

    There is a growing concern over just how much the mishandling of coronavirus has been completely accidental and ill-informed.

  14. Arboreal Agenda says:

    What this has made me reflect on is how the zeitgeist in ‘progressive’ circles for years has been that everything is run / dominated by old white men who need to be replaced by the younger and more diverse. Whilst there is nothing wrong at all with the idea society should be represented more fairly, along with that mantra has been a totally unsubtle attack on older people summed up succinctly by the ‘boomer’ insult which covers a multitude of hidden sins I don’t need to list here (but would in several cases feature very high in people’s anger – brexit, UK unionism for example blamed largely on the older generation). So it isn’t just a case of not wanting society to be dominated by one group, it is the suggestion that that group should be ‘replaced’ because they are useless and worse. And many of those supposed sins are of the sort committed by people who would be denigrated by those now railing against apparent ‘eugenics’ and political incompetence and evil.

    And then we come to this article suddenly finding great value in the old man, but only a certain sort it seems i.e. those that can clearly be approved of (Attenborough, Parsons) against the younger who cannot (Kardashian, Hopkins), interestingly pitting old men against younger women. But there should be no reckoning of anyone’s fundamental worth, just as ‘boomers’ and old white men should never have been judged as groups (but also ‘millenials’ etc). All this makes me cynical about the sudden concern for old people.

    And yet, ironically, the government’s policy for some weeks has been specifically to try and protect the old (as florian points out), something that as far as I know has never been attempted in past pandemics, but this seems to have passed the author by completely.

    1. Bill says:

      The governments espoused theory is to protect the old. However the theory in action is different. Care homes(private sector- market) no PPE and none available from government. Do not admit to hospital from care homes – as they will not make it anyway. There have been a series of mixed messages which has added to the confusion.

      However the main point is that the espoused theory and the theory in action differ – it may always have been thus

      Bill

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        Yes mixed messages and incompetence of that there is no doubt. We have been governed by the mediocre for years to put it kindly, or the venal, inhuman, uncaring, arsehole Tories, to put it harshly (with a brief mention of the risible LibDems and I’ll leave others to judge the SNP)

        But also in practice, lockdown – this is clearly to try and stop the spread of the virus that will disproportionately affect the old by a huge margin. It will have a very big negative effect on the economy but it has been done to protect the most vulnerable. It is true they were slow to act on this and toyed with the idea of not doing it, as an article on here noted, so did most European countries, but still they did. So it cannot be stated the protection of old people is in theory only.

        1. Lorna Campbell says:

          AA: I think you are right to say that old people are not wholly being left to the tender mercies of the virus. That would make no sense, anyway, as even Boris Johnson would now concede, I think, even in a utilitarian sense, because the virus would start to appear in younger groups as soon as it had exhausted older groups, until natural immunity or immunity through survival after infection occurred in large enough groups for general host survival, but the species would be devastated. Herd immunity takes many, many deaths of all demographics and ages. I wouldn’t embrace Trump’s evaluation of the virus as a genius exactly, but all viruses are extremely resourceful and their aim is to survive and mutate within the host by utilising the host’s own cellular structures. It must move quickly from person to person and across the species barrier to survive and replicate and mutate because a dead host is no further use to it.

          1. Arboreal Agenda says:

            Yeah strong points Lorna.

            One thing about herd immunity I think is a bit misunderstood – in effect all approaches are trying to get to this. A vaccine can lead to herd immunity too. How many people end up suffering all hinges on the type of approach.

  15. Margaret Hijazi says:

    I am 80 and still working as I have done since I was 19. I have taken my brother in laws twins since they were born and they are now 12. I will keep working until they reach university, an expense for which I have been able to save. I still drive to work and yes I have underlying problems which do not interfere with my life. I get on with it. If this so called government have their way I won’t last a night in the hospital God forbid I get this virus. At least give me the option of who should be saved in my place – I wouldn’t like to put a stabber back on the road!

  16. Gillian Francis says:

    All of us lucky enough to be segregated for seclusion are having DNR written up without our permission on the R♡spect forms, mine was included in my recent discharge from cardiology and I wrote on Facebook how upset I was

    1. florian albert says:

      Gillian,

      Can you explain what this ‘r’0’spect form is ? It is something I am not familiar with.

  17. Liz Yates says:

    This has been going on long before Covid19. My own father in law was recently left without food, water or an IV to slowly die of thirst because he had cancer. Upon my insistance and threat of legal action against the care home he was begrudgingly transferred into hospital where he was given fluids via a drip and the morphine he so badly needed for the pain. When he did pass it was comfortable and with dignity. I know that this method of death is used a lot in the UK…it’s disgusting and it’s treating our elderly like animals. I live in France now and I’m pleased to say that here people seem to value and care for the older generation. I’m just over 60 and am fitter than many people half my age.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      That happened to my grandfather too. I only found out afterwards, unfortunately.

  18. John Dalrymple says:

    a wee word of encouragement – I shared this article on facebook and to date it has had 76 shares!

  19. Paul M Seligman says:

    Just found this, I will be sharing it from my @PaulMSeligman Twitter account.

    A small correction: the cancellation of the Wales V Scotland Six nations game was not because our ‘political masters woke up’. The Welsh Government was still advising that there was no reason to cancel the game. The WRU felt the pressure from other sports events cancelling, and some of the public, and didn’t want to be seen as responsible for any consequences.

    The Welsh Government may well have been half-asleep (their default state), but the UK state was not.

    Cummings, Johnson, Whitty and many whose names we don’t know, knew what they were doing. The nonsense of saying that mass crowded gatherings, even in a closed stadium as in Cardiff, did not contribute to spreading an airborne and surface spread an infection was deliberate, part of their ‘herd immunity without vaccination’ strategy, which knowingly meant a very high level of deaths very quickly, mainly (as they thought) among the elderly or infirm. There was constant propaganda about all deaths having ‘underlying health conditions’ as if those with asthma, hypertension or heart disease were expendable and the rest of the population would be fine.

    If you think it was ignorance and incompetence, then what we think of as the best private schools and top universities must be producing people who are more ignorant and stupid than the rest of us.

    There is another important factor that the article misses. The pervasive policy of ‘Quality Adjusted Life Years’, or QALYs, a core component of ‘Health Economics’ since the about 1980. This is, at one level, about how a capitalist society can decide if it is worth diagnosing or treating a patient in terms of their economic worth, the rationing of scarce health resources. It is applied in ll sorts of ways. For example, the age group (80+) most at risk of bowel cancer does NOT get offered screening or testing because at population level, they have already exceeded their allocated quality years so aren’t ‘worth’ diagnosing early when they could be saved. they may have some treatments and palliative care as the state doesn’t like to appear nakedly inhumane. I simplify, but that is official logic and applied policy.

    Everyone who is in a position like chief medical advisor to the national or a regional government or head of Public Health England/Wales/Scotland/NI etc, has been trained and brought up in that theory, which is a modern form of eugenics (in my view). It is but a small step to contemplate the ‘unfortunate’ loss of hundreds of thousands of much loved human beings sooner rather than later. These people always think at population level (because they ‘have to’) not about the exceptions, the older people still ‘contributing’ to society. As a professor said on radio recently, there is ‘collateral damage’ from the epidemic (he was referring to untreated cancer sufferers and similar).

    The savings (in NHS costs, social care, pensions etc) from those early deaths will help mitigate the economic damage in these views. And those calculations will have been made and presented to government in different scenarios . Plenty of space in care homes for any surviving ‘bed blockers’ to be discharged.

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