21 April 2005
Question Time, BBC TV
I am typing this in Durham's Clayport Library, the first time that I have posted my weblog from anywhere other than home, and a small aspect of the strength of a weblog. Although there are many topics about which I am currently writing on which the digital sun is not yet shining, I feel gravitationally pulled towards recording these moments in close-to-real-time. This evening, for only the second time, Question Time, the prime current affairs vox pop television programme is being recorded in Durham, UK. Hosted by David Dimbleby, one of the foremost presenters in BBC television, the panel of politicians who will be responding to questions put by the audience will include Baronness Shirley Williams, an inspirational Liberal Democrat grandee; Robin Cook (MP), now a maverick, but former Foreign Secretary in Tony Blair's Labour government; Jean Lambert (MEP), one of the most widely known spokespeople for the Green Party; and William Hague (MP), a former leader of the Conservative Party. I feel very excited by such a heavyweight line-up. I almost always watch Question Time, and feel involved with both the issues addressed and the format of the programme (I note my reluctance to term it a 'show', the term used by David Dimbleby). The UK is entering the final fortnight of political campaigning for the forthcoming general election - the second defence of the Blair government. (The Labour Party has never won a third consecutive term.) Over the past few days questions that I might ask have been screaming, Le Mans style, around in my head. I would love to ask Shirley Williams to hold up a banner for regional democracy. I would love to hear some defence of negative political campaigning. I should enjoy making William Hague squirm regarding the racist rhetoric of the Conservative Party concerning immigration and asylum-seekers. However, the question that I am burning to ask is about the high court decision to grant doctors permission to allow Charlotte Wyatt to die - against the wishes of her parents. I have tried out different angles, and the one that both appeals to me and has the emotional poignancy to make it less boring is: "In the 1960s, the UK legal system finally turned its back on the judicial killing of adults. Is it right that a judge can now permit doctors, against the clearly expressed wishes of the child's parents, to allow Charlotte Wyatt to die when the child could live? Surely it is a child's parents, not doctors, who are best able to determine quality of life? What has happened to the principle of informed consent?" I feel intensely passionate about this because, under the same principle, Jemima, my daughter, who endured similar circumstances, could have been left to die, and is alive today only because of extended intensive interventions, including rescuscitation. Despite her multiple disabilities, the quality of life of my daughter has been nurtured and grown by her parents. In my morality, neither medical nor legal people should ever remove responsibility from a person (or their guardians) about when that person dies. What I have written applies equally to Terry Schiavo.