A Personal Political Blow
have just heard that Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, which would have allowed doctors to provide new and innovative treatments to terminally ill patients, has been vetoed in the House of Commons by the Liberal Democrats. As one of those patients, it is a devastating personal blow.
I am writing this with tears of disappointment in my eyes, a knot of fury in my stomach and a lump of grief in my throat. Not just for me, who has been privileged enough to receive financial support for treatments abroad that I can’t get here, but for every cancer patient in this country who has heard the words, “There is nothing more we can do.”
We are willing guinea pigs in the search for possibility, potential and hope. Not just because we’re desperate, despairing or in denial, but because we want to go out knowing we did everything we could to stay. Because our suffering matters. Our dreams matter. Every extra day with our beloveds matter. Because we’re lucid enough to take our own risks and make our own choices. Because in our weakest, most vulnerable conditions we are often at our most innovative, creative and resourceful. Because we want to continue contributing to society and future generations. Because we treasure life.
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem Health Minister who put the brakes on this Bill, claims “the risk is that some highly vulnerable people, desperate for a chance of recovery or remission, could be easy prey for exploitation by the few unscrupulous practitioners who peddle false hope.” Shame on him. In guarding against “the few” he has made instant prey of the many vulnerable people who want more than the inevitability on offer – the ones who, through their terminal diagnosis, have discovered there is no such thing as “false hope”. There is hope or no hope. And a choice for your spirit to be raised up by one or taken down by the other.
I deeply object to the assumption that the vulnerability bestowed by my disease makes me more exploitable when, in fact, I have rarely been more at cause in my life or as spiritually robust. And I object to being protected from the possible disappointment of not getting what I still dare to hope for, as if it could somehow disappoint me more than the certain end I have been assured of by my scrupulous practitioners who peddle ‘statistics’ and ‘facts’. From where I’m sitting that rationale is nutty-nut-nut nuts!
In response to this “extraordinary turn of events” Lord Saatchi said, “By killing the Bill they have killed the hopes of thousands of cancer patients. It is as simple as that.”
Perhaps not quite that simple because no one can kill my hope but me. I stand on hope moment by moment through this journey of sacred unknowing, faithful to the grace on offer in the midst of my suffering and surprisingly at ease with my disease. No one can take that away.
But he is right to mourn the loss of this rare opportunity and to express his passionate indignation at so short-sighted and devastating a decision, which will undoubtedly have painful and fatal consequences for many years to come. I share his indignation and sorrow. I thank him with all my heart for his vision, courage and compassion. And I mourn this loss today.