Saturday, 3 July 2021



My youngest daughter has been left in limbo in the UK after the recent National Cabinet decision to cut the cap of returning Australians by 50%.

She is a very well-organised young person and had booked her return airfare at the expiry of her two-year working visa. She had vacated her accommodation and resigned her job in Bristol to correspond with the expiry of her visa.

Now she is vulnerable, at the mercy of her friends. 

She paid about four times for the return fare as it cost her to travel to the UK in June 2019, before Covid was around. 

Her dream of working in England, and travelling all over the continent, financed by working two jobs in Brisbane for two years turned to dust. She got as far as Iceland and Portugal, and that was it.

Now, her government has prevented her from coming home.

Consider the strange historical symmetry in this situation remembering that fifty-two years ago, I was forced by my government to leave my home and fight as a conscript in a civil war on foreign soil.

And on each occasion, the government in power is the Coalition.

For the second time in a little over fifty years, young Australians are convenient political collateral.

So much for the Liberal Party's regard for personal freedom......

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Friday, 2 July 2021

Sinéad O’Connor & The Chieftains

An inspiring piece of music.

The words -

I was down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I
There armed lines of marching men
In squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus Bells o'er the Liffey swells rang out in the foggy dew
Right proudly high in Dublin town
Hung they out a flag of war
'Twas better to die neath that Irish sky 
Than at Sulva or Sud el Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath
Strong men came hurrying through
While Brittania's huns with their long range guns
Sailed in through the foggy dew
Their bravest fell and the requiem bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those that died that Eastertide in the Springing of the year
While the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew
And back through the glen I rode again
And my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
Whom I never shall see n'more
But to and fro in my dreams I go
And I kneel and pray for you
For slavery fled oh glorious dead
When you fell in the foggy dew. 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The Consent Dilemma


Image courtesy ICT works

Lately, gentle reader, we've been hearing a great deal about consent.

The discussion has generally been about consent for sex, against the background of a high profile incident in parliament house, the awarding of Australian of the Year to Grace Tame, and school students becoming active about the issue.

But consent operates in a range of other contexts, notable amongst them the use of personal data. How often have you given consent for your information to be shared online, and how much thought do you put into that question? Look at the image above to get a handle on the complications.

Now we're hearing about consent in relation to medical matters, specifically the AstraZeneca vaccine. I had the first dose back in mid-April, with no ill effects. The flu vaccine, on the other hand, left me with a very tender left arm for a few days. 

I needed no persuasion to have either, so consent was not an issue, but in the past, it has been.

Many years ago (1982) my bride and I lost our first baby (full-term) through stillbirth. A post mortem revealed the cause was a cerebral aneurism, the consequence of a minor malformation which meant the baby could not survive the rigours of birth.

We were asked by the obstetrician at a debriefing appointment after my bride's discharge from the hospital whether we were planning to have more children. When we answered in the affirmative, he suggested that future births should be cesareans.

We made no decisions at the time, but went home and discussed the suggestion at length. It was clear that my bride did not want to go down that path, so we went back to the doctor, and asked him to explain simply the dimensions of the risk we were managing. He said that there was an 80% likelihood of safe childbirth.

Put this way, it was easier to make a decision, which was to opt for normal delivery, and four healthy babies later, that worked out well. What the experience did for us, was to highlight the issue of consent, and which player (or players) in the scenario have the right to provide it.

I was reminded of consent again when completing my St John's CPR refresher the other day. The instructor reminded us that first aid cannot be provided to a conscious lucid individual who refuses it. 

I hope I'm never put in that situation.

Now we have National Cabinet deciding that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be provided to people under forty if they give informed consent. Again, that consent needs to be weighed against the background of a risk/benefit analysis. 

Sometimes I think that the medical profession has a problem with allowing consent to be the prerogative of the patient, and I'm sure I understand why. It must be mortifying to know that the decisions the patient makes may not be in his/her long-term interest. It must butt up against the "first do no harm" principle something fierce.

Consent is also a critical factor in any discussion about euthanasia, but maybe I'll look at that another time.

In summary, medicine, whilst a noble profession, runs the risk of assuming a power it does not have. I'm talking about the "playing God" cliche.

I hope my GP brother doesn't read this.

Sunday, 27 June 2021


Picture courtesy ABC - Not my bride.

 June 22nd started up as a routine Tuesday. 

I went to the gym, and my bride headed out to meet a friend for coffee, something that happens most weeks. I got home first and emerged from the shower, got dressed, and heard the car draw up, but my bride didn't come into the house.

This was strange, so I went into the garage and found her standing beside the car with its back door open, looking with a puzzled expression at a bag of bits and pieces obviously bought from a nearby shopping centre. She asked me "Where did this stuff come from?".

I rummaged in the bag and found a docket that showed the items had been bought half an hour earlier at a shop that my bride frequents, but she was adamant that she hadn't bought them. 

We went inside, and she kept repeating questions like "Where have I been and how did I get here?" I phoned her friend who reported that they had parted company after a chat and a coffee, and a mention that she was going to do a bit of shopping on the way home. My bride had no recollection of any of this.

By this time I was very concerned, so sat her down and went through the stroke test that I'd learned when I did my first-aid certificate. All seemed normal, but I drove her to casualty at the hospital less than a kilometre away. There, the triage nurse put her through the same stroke test I had applied, and then when the emergency registrar tured up, he did the same. That made three stroke tests in one hour. The registrar ventured a diagnosis, (probably a bit premature at that stage) of TGA (Transient Global Amnesia)

Then followed an admission after a bed had been found and the beginning of a series of tests across the next three days including an electroencephalogram, an MRI, a Carotid duplex, and a CT scan. She was discharged on Friday evening after an examination from a visiting Neurologist who came from the big smoke.

He endorsed the registrar's diagnosis.

My bride is back to her old self, after one day (Wednesday) when she said she felt a bit fuzzy, and all memory has returned with the exception of a gap lasting from about noon Tuesday until Wednesday morning. For her, the most frustrating consequence was being locked out of her phone because she kept punching in the wrong login sequence during her confusion on Tuesday. 

An hour on the phone with the helpful Glen from Apple online help fixed that.

It was certainly a great relief that recovery was so quick and complete, and also that there were no nasty migraines that apparently can accompany these episodes.

Typically, the origin is unknown, so we're left with a mystery. 

It was, whilst it lasted, pretty frightening.

 Comments Closed 

Hugh White - Without America

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