Tag Archives: ‘cruel

Hospitals are bleak enough already. Banning sugary drinks is just cruel | Ella Risberger

In an attempt to solve the “obesity crisis”, it appears that the NHS is considering a total ban on the sale of sugary drinks in its hospitals.

A voluntary NHS England scheme to reduce the sale of sugary soft drinks, milkshakes and hot drinks with added sugar syrups to failed to take off, and so the idea for a ban to come into effect from 1 July (alongside the new tax on sugary drinks which comes into effect this Friday), is obviously sensible. It’s logical. It’s scientific. We all know, after all, that we should probably all have less sugar, less fat, less caffeine.

It makes total sense – except, of course, at 4am in the ICU waiting room, when all you need is a double-shot hazelnut latte and absolutely none of this to be happening.


This ban could only have been proposed by people who don’t know what it’s like to spend a great deal of time in hospital

I don’t know enough to speak with authority on the “obesity crisis”. What I do know, however, is that this sweeping ban on sugary drinks could only have been proposed by people who don’t know (or have forgotten) what it’s like to spend a great deal of time in hospital. Between 2015 and 2017, I was the carer for my then-partner, who was critically and chronically ill. He was often in hospital, and when he was in hospital, I was there too.

A friend told me that when her daughter, who has leukaemia, was in hospital, the staff wouldn’t allow diet drinks on the ward. “[They] said they were dangerous, and told us constantly to go and get a hot chocolate or a coffee to try and buck us up a bit.”

That’s what it’s like in hospital: you need something to keep you going. I didn’t eat much, I didn’t sleep much either. I didn’t have the time to cook or eat properly. I needed calories, and I needed caffeine. Crucially, it was delicious. Another friend tells me she goes for a syrupy latte every after single appointment “because having to go to hospital all the time is hard and I want a little pick-me-up.” She’s not alone. Another patient told me she “mainlined lattes” while in a high-dependency unit last year. “Gingerbread was one of the few things I could stomach.”

Syrupy lattes and sugary drinks are for so many of us a tiny, accessible joy in a horrible time; a tiny memo from an outside world that had mostly ceases to exist. Prof John Wass, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said that the reduction in sales of unhealthy food and drink in hospitals would be an important step in the battle against obesity. “It also sends a strong message that the NHS is serious about cutting the amount of sugar in the nation’s diet,” he added.

But if you’re in hospital enough times that a sugary drink on the premises is going to make you obese, you have almost certainly got bigger things to worry about – and probably a team of doctors to do the worrying for you. You’ve already had to relinquish much of your life and your choices to professionals: to lose these last choices – a chocolate bar here, a coffee there – feels like the last infantilising indignity.

“You’re not going to change people’s eating habits when they are not feeling well,” said Duncan Burton, the director of patient experience at Kingston hospital in London, last year – and it’s true. People at their lowest ebb, caught as I was in a terrible limbo, don’t want to be lectured about sugar content. They would just like to get through the night. Who craves a side salad in times of stress? Burton, by the way, is leading a revolution: he has reintroduced breakfast toast, and home baking at tea-time. “If you can get them to eat a piece of cake,” he says “then fine … at least it is some nutrition.”

Food can be a joy and a treat and a pleasure – and there’s little enough of that in hospital. There is a tendency sometimes to forget this: a tendency towards thinking of food simply as fuel. Nutritionists serve up strange, chemical-tasting high-calorie powders and mousses; the menu is often outsourced to the cheapest possible catering company with little regard for either nutritional content or what might tempt a sick person to eat.

And none of this is ideal. Of course it isn’t. In an ideal world I would have eaten properly; got more rest. In an ideal world, there would be enough nurses that no carer would feel they had to be on hand every minute, and doctors would not be working unbelievably long shifts and covering four wards at once. In an ideal world, the menus would be tempting and delicious: real food, cooked properly, with enough for carers and visitors and doctors too. You’d have free tea and coffee-making facilities on every ward, and we would not be outsourcing nutrition to private for-profit companies. No sick person would have to suffer the indignity of microwave instant potato; no carer would be pacing the halls with a full-fat Coke at 4am, because they’d be sleeping safe in the knowledge that the hospital was adequately and appropriately staffed. In an ideal world, we’d all be safe at home. That’s the crux of the matter. There is nothing ideal about any of this.

People get sick and people get sad. They need comfort and pleasure, and the NHS has precious little of both those things to go around. While that remains the case, the proposed ban feels like a sort of ivory-tower position. Stay sitting up all night, and then do it again, and do it again, by the same bed in ICU, and tell me you don’t end up craving a sugar hit.

Ella Risbridger is a journalist and author

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Death and the cruel process that follows | Letters

Annalisa Barbieri was lucky to have been able to keep her father at home for 11 hours after he died (Family, 6 January). I found my mother (aged 90) who had died in her sleep at home. Not knowing what to do, I rang her GP. This started a legal process that whisked her body away before I had time to say goodbye. Because she did not die in hospital or hospice and hadn’t seen her GP in the last two weeks, the GP was required to contact the police, who had to come and keep guard on the body until the undertakers came to take it away, I assume in case she’d been murdered. They couldn’t even wait for my sister to arrive to see my mother dead in her bed.

If I’d been warned that this would happen, I would have spent an hour or two quietly with my mother’s body before I rang the GP.

It would be good to publicise this system so that others don’t have the same experience. Everyone was kind, but the process is cruel.
Christine Holloway
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

UN repeats criticism of Ireland’s ‘cruel and inhumane’ abortion laws

The United Nations has again ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws have subjected a woman to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

It is the second time in 12 months that the UN’s human rights committee has denounced the abortion rules in the Irish Republic, which denies women with fatal foetal abnormalities the right to terminate pregnancies.

The committee has found in favour of Siobhán Whelan, an Irish woman who was denied access to an abortion in 2010 despite being diagnosed with fatal foetal syndrome during her pregnancy, it was announced on Tuesday.

Fatal foetal abnormalities include where the foetus has under-developed vital organs such as the heart and brain, which would mean if the pregnancy went to full term the baby would either be stillborn or die within hours of birth.

Whelan’s case mirrors that of Amanda Mellet, who was also forced to travel to Britain to end her pregnancy.

Last year the UN ruled in Mellet’s favour, and she made history by becoming the first woman to be compensated by the Irish state over the trauma she suffered.

In the Whelan case, the UN committee held that Ireland must also provide her with reparations for the harm she suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not face similar human rights violations.

The committee also instructed Ireland to legalise abortion and provide effective, timely and accessible abortion services.

Three years ago, the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Whelan before the committee, arguing that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws violated her basic human rights by subjecting her to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, interfering with her right to privacy and discriminating against her on the basis of her gender.

Responding to the latest ruling, Whelan said: “When I received the diagnosis, I was told I would have to continue with the pregnancy since Ireland’s abortion laws do not allow you to end the pregnancy even in these circumstances.

“If I wanted to end the pregnancy, I would have to travel to another jurisdiction. This, to me, was very wrong and I knew that the suffering I endured because I had to travel to access healthcare was inhuman.

“I believe that women and couples must be given the best possible care at home at such a difficult time in their lives, including if they decide to terminate the pregnancy, and that there should be equal access to good-quality information and care by hospitals countrywide.

“The human rights committee has found that what happened to me was a human rights violation. It has recognised that Ireland’s abortion laws can cause women intense suffering, violating our most basic human rights.”

Leah Hoctor, the regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said: “Siobhán Whelan bravely sought justice for the harm she and other women have endured as a result of Ireland’s abortion laws. The UN human rights committee has now upheld her claims and told Ireland, for the second time, that its abortion laws are cruel and inhumane.”

Ireland outlaws abortions except where the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Attempts by the last Fine Gael-Labour party coalition to deal with the controversy led to the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which allowed for abortion where a woman is suicidal and may be judged to be in danger of taking her own life if the pregnancy continues.

Physicians and psychiatrists in Ireland have complained that there is a “chill factor” in their professions over decision-making on abortion or even carrying out terminations in Irish hospitals under the act.

They claim this is because legal cases could be taken against them as, under the eighth amendment to Ireland’s constitution, the foetus is an Irish citizen with the same rights as everyone else in the state. Pro-choice campaigners are lobbying for a referendum that would erase the eighth amendment from the country’s constitution.

UN repeats criticism of Ireland’s ‘cruel and inhumane’ abortion laws

The United Nations has again ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws have subjected a woman to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

It is the second time in 12 months that the UN’s human rights committee has denounced the abortion rules in the Irish Republic, which denies women with fatal foetal abnormalities the right to terminate pregnancies.

The committee has found in favour of Siobhán Whelan, an Irish woman who was denied access to an abortion in 2010 despite being diagnosed with fatal foetal syndrome during her pregnancy, it was announced on Tuesday.

Fatal foetal abnormalities include where the foetus has under-developed vital organs such as the heart and brain, which would mean if the pregnancy went to full term the baby would either be stillborn or die within hours of birth.

Whelan’s case mirrors that of Amanda Mellet, who was also forced to travel to Britain to end her pregnancy.

Last year the UN ruled in Mellet’s favour, and she made history by becoming the first woman to be compensated by the Irish state over the trauma she suffered.

In the Whelan case, the UN committee held that Ireland must also provide her with reparations for the harm she suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not face similar human rights violations.

The committee also instructed Ireland to legalise abortion and provide effective, timely and accessible abortion services.

Three years ago, the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Whelan before the committee, arguing that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws violated her basic human rights by subjecting her to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, interfering with her right to privacy and discriminating against her on the basis of her gender.

Responding to the latest ruling, Whelan said: “When I received the diagnosis, I was told I would have to continue with the pregnancy since Ireland’s abortion laws do not allow you to end the pregnancy even in these circumstances.

“If I wanted to end the pregnancy, I would have to travel to another jurisdiction. This, to me, was very wrong and I knew that the suffering I endured because I had to travel to access healthcare was inhuman.

“I believe that women and couples must be given the best possible care at home at such a difficult time in their lives, including if they decide to terminate the pregnancy, and that there should be equal access to good-quality information and care by hospitals countrywide.

“The human rights committee has found that what happened to me was a human rights violation. It has recognised that Ireland’s abortion laws can cause women intense suffering, violating our most basic human rights.”

Leah Hoctor, the regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said: “Siobhán Whelan bravely sought justice for the harm she and other women have endured as a result of Ireland’s abortion laws. The UN human rights committee has now upheld her claims and told Ireland, for the second time, that its abortion laws are cruel and inhumane.”

Ireland outlaws abortions except where the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Attempts by the last Fine Gael-Labour party coalition to deal with the controversy led to the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which allowed for abortion where a woman is suicidal and may be judged to be in danger of taking her own life if the pregnancy continues.

Physicians and psychiatrists in Ireland have complained that there is a “chill factor” in their professions over decision-making on abortion or even carrying out terminations in Irish hospitals under the act.

They claim this is because legal cases could be taken against them as, under the eighth amendment to Ireland’s constitution, the foetus is an Irish citizen with the same rights as everyone else in the state. Pro-choice campaigners are lobbying for a referendum that would erase the eighth amendment from the country’s constitution.

Cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging as minister says smoking is ‘cruel waste of human potential’

Public Overall health Minister Jane Ellison has announced to the House of Commons that outlets will only sell cigarettes in plain packaging in England, calling smoking a “cruel waste of human likely”.

Her anouncement follows the outcomes of an independent report which she said exhibits plain packaging would be really likely to have a “constructive impact on public overall health.”

The government should consider “every single effective measure we can” to minimize the number of smokers in the nation, she additional.

Nevertheless her comments prompted cries of “shame” from Tory backbenchers, who described the move as a “nanny state” measure rather than a Conservative 1.