Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gil the Armless

A few decades ago, US author Larry Niven wrote a series of stories concerning "Gil the Arm", a detective in a near-future society. This society had so well-perfected transplant techniques that there was a severe shortage of donor organs. The government responded by introducing the death penalty for a broad range of offences, so that the convicted could be harvested for organs. Such heinous crimes included exceeding the speed limit or running a red light.

This science fictional future has now become reality. The Australian government's Organ and Tissue Authority has introduced a system where Australia hospitals can receive up to $A11,400 for each patient they can turn into an organ donor (Sunday Telegraph, February 21, 2010).

All the hospitals have to do is convince patients' families to authorise organ donation consent for critical patients that the hospital claim should not be revived if they should technically die. The patients are then kept alive on life support until their organs can be harvested. Not revived and kept on life support in the hope they can recover (as many do), but kept alive as a source of organ donations for profit.

Doctors seem to have expressed criticism of the scheme, not because it removed the requirement to keep a patient alive at all costs, but because it encourages hospitals to pressure families to allow patients to become organ donors before they are dead. Already, hospitals have the right to deny commencing life support to critical patients (but not turning it off once commenced, since there is a risk that the next-of-kin will sue unless they give permission for cessation of life support).

All that a hospital need to do is convince the next-of-kin that the patient should be allowed to die. Currently, hospitals prefer to keep patients in an ICU because they are paid $10,000 per day for little extra expenditure. If there is no room in the ICU, this is a good way to make extra money (the hospital can be paid $A7,218 for transferring a patient from emergency to the ICU with the intention of harvesting organs, even if such harvesting never occurs; meaning no bed space is required).

This is off interest to me. I decided decades past that I would not consent to organ donation, out of fear that this system would be implemented. In January/February 2007, my fears were partly justified. While I was in a long and serious coma, the hospital told my next-of-kin that my critical condition might deteriorate into death. When I prolonged my agony by refusing to die (and in fact tried to escape from the hospital bed while in a coma), my next-of-kin was told that by keeping me on life support, he was only prolonging my agony in a hopeless case. What would have happened if the hospital could make extra money by declaring me irredeemable?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ignorance, Well-meaning or Malicious

A few weeks ago, Australian Olympic representatives in Vancouver reported to the media that their "Boxing Kangaroo" flag display had been classed as illegal. They claimed that the AOC had approached them to say that the IOC had complained that the trademarked flag violated its branding regulations.

The IOC said that it was surprised about the claims, since it had not begun examining any branding breaches, and would not object to the flag if the trademark owners did not object. The AOC then announced it had not contacted the Olympic team, so why the false news reports.

The media became very quiet. It would be easy for anyone within the AOC to call Vancouver and quietly tell the Australian team chief that the flag was illegal and would be banned by the IOC. The caller could even tell the team chief to call the AOC and ask for his/her extension, and he/she would confirm the comment.

No names, nothing in writing. Just mischief caused. The caller could have been well-meaning, and trying to stop a problem before it began, or could have just been maliciously attempting to prove his/her power. I doubt it was the trademark owner trying to get some free publicity.

It seems that too many people in official positions are trying to author events without accepting any responsibility.

On a point raised yesterday: the media claimed that the Clean Air Commission (CEC) claimed that the current installation of domestic solar panels was a fire hazard. Today, the CEC said it had not said such a thing. The media outlets who made the original report did report this, but took the story no further. It seems that all you need to gain media attention is a newsworthy statement that offends no one who can fight back. Never mind the truth, just feel the publicity!

Contend In Vain?

Neville Angove

 I applied for medical priority government housing in March 2007. There was no way I could obtain private housing suitable for wheelchair access and with room for occasional full time care. I kept applying for 18 months (the Housing NSW mission statement said about a two week wait), and none was offered. Finally the local allocations officer said that although I clearly qualified and had extensive medical references, there was simply none available, and none planned. As well, there was another disabled person ahead of me on the waiting list.

I escalated the matter to the political level. Then my full-time carer asked me to leave (using the police as her vehicle), since she had agreed only to three months (after which I was supposed to spontaneously grow new nerves). I spent six weeks trapped in a third floor unit, unable to leave without assistance, and able to move around the unit only on my hands and knees.

Then I was offered a semi-detached unit, organised without the knowledge of the local office. Housing had spent over $2 million dollars buying a half-completed eight-unit complex, with the condition that one unit be modified for wheelchair access. I moved in during November 2008.

Because of the hurry completing the unit, it had been relocated to no longer enjoy the passive temperature control with which it had been designed, and the ground had not settled. As well, some features designed for wheelchair accessibility were absent. I did not quibble at the time, since my prognosis gave me little time to live.

When I moved in, Housing's local office could not do enough for me. Over the next few months, this changed. When my prognosis changed to an expectation of an unfortunately longer life, I began to take interest in what would be the last independent living dwelling I would have.

I had to take Housing to the tenants tribunal to force it to allow me to install some passive temperature control features, so at least my second summer in the unit (and the worst one here for decades) was tolerable. Even my local politician, Joe Tripodi, eventually stopped fighting for me, having been "told" by the civil servants to cease and desist.

Only two days ago (late in the evening of February 16th 2010), I telephoned through a list of maintenance needs to Housing's new customer dissatisfaction system. Many could only be handled in the Department's regular maintenance review (about four years hence), but repair orders were drawn up to handle some others.

Now Housing maintenance is supposed to take from two to four weeks, but there is a long backlog (one chap waited 18 months for a window to be fixed). I had two teams arrive within 12 hours to fix a broken security lock and replace a leaking water pie. As well one team promised to submit a report recommending a new pressure relief valve and fixing a leak in my toilet pedestal (leaking sewage does not appeal to me). I do not know when this will be done, since I reported it months earlier.

And this morning, I received another call to say that another repairer wanted to fix my wall oven (which had trouble turning off when requested), but could not specify an arrival time except somewhere in a four-hour period (since I have to see my doctor in that time, I had to schedule the repair visit for the following Monday).

I mention this because it seems I am now high up in the list again. Perhaps someone has noticed that I am still getting my complaints published, or need to be satisfied? I still can't get some major faults fixed, but I will keep on trying (it seems that there are a few small factions within the civil service who still want to do their jobs; it is just a matter of getting their attention).

While you generally contend in vain to get the civil servants to actually do their jobs, the fight isn't always fruitless. Now I just need to get my vertical blinds reattached, some settlement cracks repair, something done about doors and windows no longer being square, and a bug infestation removed.

The Godless Themselves (that's meeeeeeee!)

Neville Angove

 No followers yet. Then, I am not following any blogs myself, simply because I can't find any!

Peter Garrett has received a lot of media flack about problems with the home insulation and solar power schemes. His problem is that he doesn't know he is supposed to fall on his sword, even though the problems are the result of avoiding responsibility by his civil servants.

When the schemes were first touted, his Department received loads of complaints and concerns. He claimed that these had been addressed by his Department when the schemes were implemented. History has shown that he was mislead by his civil servants.

We have seen poor workmanship, poor product quality, price gouging, and buck passing (the bucks mainly passed from the public to industry sections that used to be honest). The media has been highlighting four deaths that occurred during the installation of ceiling insulation, and a large number of house fires causes by improper installation.

If a house fire is caused by faulty installation of electrical wiring (as most are), should the government be condemned? If house fires are caused by faulty ceiling insulation, where the Australian Standards are clearly documented, should the government be condemned? The media reticent to comment.

My comment is drawn by an ABC news item tonight that gave more details of the four deaths previously mentioned. Three deaths were caused by electrocution in Queensland during mistakes in the installation of foil insulation. This is simply evolution in action. The other death occurred in NSW, where a young man was forced in enter a roof cavity to install insulation batts during one of the hottest November days in history. He died of heat stroke. I consider this to be actionable against the employer; a young worker would not know of the hazards of working in such an environment in extreme conditions, nor know he was legally entitled to refuse without fear of retribution. Interestingly, the media has not called for charges to be laid against the employer. The media is too busy attacking the politicians.

Against Stupidity?

Neville Angove

 One day I will learn how to use Typing is such slow torture that I have trouble following through with my plans. I started well with a blog when I subscribed to Bigpond three years ago, but when I changed ISPs, the blog disappeared.

Trying to keep up to date via the media is hard. My experience is that the media invariably gets it wrong, and later media items reference earlier media items that managed to get it wrong (but being medias, mist be a reliable source). In "Band Of Brothers", the penultimate episode refers to the finding of the first Nazi concentration camps. I have a few bones of contention.

It was known for several years before the Allied invasion that the concentration camps existed, and what they did. The magnitude may have been hidden, but the purpose wasn't. This TV show implies that the existence of the camps was unknown until 1945. Since TV is how most people get their information , then this misinformation will continue to the nth generation.

Not long after this show premiered, the Israeli prime minister was quoted as saying that the world should not forget the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust. I was taken aback at this number quoted, since I had been taught from many sources, that the deaths of Jews due to murder in the Nazi camps was between three and five million. The accepted estimate was four million Jews and two million others (including ethnic groups, political enemies, forced labourers, and POWs).

I saw where this misinformation quoted by the Israeli PM was sourced: in the penultimate episode of "Band of Brothers", the credits included the written quote that six million Jews and five million from ethnic groups were killed in the Nazi concentration camps.

This seems like another William Safire/USS Aegis controversy in the making.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canute and Climate Change

Neville Angove

 As a school student, I was taught a lesson abut playing god. King Canute, tired of being overly praised, showed his politicians that for all his power he had no control over the tides.

The same applies to global warming and climate change. Unless we cause a nuclear winter, there is little we can do to affect global warming. We can affect climate change; in fact, the growth of cities creates heat plumes that affect weather patterns in interesting ways. A fractional increase in global temperatures has also affected weather patterns. More importantly, if you live in Europe, the Gulf Stream is showing signs of stopping, causing a new ice age.

The planet is on an upwards trend towards increased warmth. This is a problem of celestial mechanics and a 44,000 year cycle. About this trend there will be upwards and downwards shocks, and these will confuse the issue.

In Australia, there is a big political bunfight over the Emissions Trading Scheme. What is going unsaid is that we are in the midst of a global economic crisis that has been largely caused by speculation in derivative stocks. Stockbrokers are already salivating over the profits they can make in trading "carbon credits", with this derivative market poised to become larger than the derivative market in sub-prime mortgages. Apart from the costs to consumers from the initial and continued sales of carbon credits, trading in them will cause even worse problems.

The whole area of climate change and global warming is hugely confused by hyperbole, deliberate misrepresentation, misuse of statistics, abuse of the scientific method, and pure profit taking (notice how solar hot water systems have more than doubled in price, relative to the CPI, or how photovoltaic systems still cost much more than buying the equivalent electricity, even though household electricity prices have doubled relative the the CPI)?

Everyone seems to be after a quick buck, or after more power by determining who will make the bucks. The consumer is the one who pays for it, and will suffer repeated bumchuming for being ignorant. But those who make the wrong decisions (or enforce them) have made sure they get the income to shelter them. Trust civil servants to look after themselves, and make money from the tragedy of others.

Medical Negligence

Neville Angove

I caught part of a reality show about ICU operations. Some poor bugger had caught an infection after neural surgery, and was not responding to antibiotics after three days administration. The hospital asked the parents if it could take him off life support and let him die. They agreed, and it did.

In 2007, I did not respond to antibiotics for over a month. Luckily, I did not catch pneumonia, and the hospital decided to keep me on dialysis and breathing support. I had entered hospital in a coma after developing legionella sepsis from an antibiotic-resistant version. My kidneys failed, my liver failed, my lungs failed, and then my heart gave up the fight. I was revived, but i spite of showing no response to antibiotics, the staff kept me on life support.

To add insult to injury, I contracted a multiple-resistant version of MRSA (EMRSA-E15) and MRAB, after more than two weeks of antibiotic treatment. It seems I only survived by also developing rhabdomyolisis, which caused me to burn off half my body weight and kept my kidneys from functioning. A combination of losing weight that made the inadequate oxygen support become adequate, and my immune system finally killing off the infections, and I started to come out of the coma.

Unfortunately, although I survived the treatment, I ended up about 75% crippled. It has been described as either a generalised stroke, or a rare case of late onset cerebral palsy. The hospital refused to acknowledge my condition, in case it meant it had to admit I had acquired at least two infections in hospital because of inadequate hygiene. I have been fighting for support ever since.

As of this date, my poor mobility status is officially described as being caused by a mental condition. I can't apply for medical support because I have be examined for each request, and the law says I have to pay for each examination (which I can't afford). On my three admissions to hospital for related problems since I was crippled, the hospitals have refused to perform even the most rudimentary examinations (in April 2009, my report stated that I had no physical or medical problems, in spite of being kept in isolation, and needing a wheelchair to be kept on hand so I could be evacuated if required).

The reason I am writing this is that the TV program saw seemed to publicly argue and justify that if a patient does not respond to antibiotics after three days, then it is OK now to cease life support. Glad my month in a coma occurred three years earlier. Seems that doctors are trying to increase the amount of responsibility they can now avoid. Already, it is accepted that the deaths through medical negligence in hospitals of up to 30,000 Australian hospital patients a year is "...a minor matter."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thick As Two Planks

Neville Angove

Today's Sydney Sunday Telegraph ran a story highlighting the plight of a father who wrote to the Environment Minister and the Prime Minister. He had written to complain about faults in the free home ceiling insulation system that was causing deaths by electrocution. It must be said that installers who do not realise that connecting metal insulation to live wires will make the insulation definitely dangerous: think of their deaths as evolution in action.

The mistake lies in anyone thinking that letters to political Ministers actually reaches the Ministers. Instead, they are read by civil servants, answers written by civil servants, and the justification for the answers written by civil servants.

I have been writing letters to various Ministers for three years. Only once did one actually reach the Minister (John Della Bosca, the deposed Health Minister of NSW), and a reply written by him received. The letter was a copy hand delivered to him of a letter written to a local politician.

This problem applies to the US, the UK and Australia. It could apply elsewhere, but I do not have sufficient contacts in other countries. Accept the fact that governments are run by civil servants for their own ends (enjoy a little power, fertilising the ground for post-retirement remuneration), leaving the game of getting elected so they can enjoy the perks of office (and occasionally slip in some good works, civil servants not being the brightest lights around).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All Your Fault

Neville Angove

 Have been having an argument with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. This brought to mind a comment made late 2009 on TV by a spokesman for the NSW Department of Health, Dr Ian Smyth. He said something typical of doctors and civil servants, about a report that about 400 hospital patients in NSW were dying from golden staph infections each year (this is less than a third of the number calculated for hospital acquired golden staph infections, and golden staph deaths account for only 25% of deaths due to hospital acquired infections).

He said that these deaths were a minor matter.

If the NSW Commissioner of Police said that the deaths in custody of 400 people per year, regardless of their medical state when arrested, was a "minor matter", than he would face certain charges.

But doctors are immune. And the civil service employees control their own destinies (they write the rules, decide what rules will be enforced, and then report on how well they are doing their jobs). This point was sorta highlighted by cardboard cutout, NSW Premier Keneally, about laying the blame for an expensive stuffup in the new public transport fare system. She said the persons responsible would be found and punished.

THIS I GOTTA SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Typically, instead of highly-paid civil servants finding the mistakes, it was consumers who found the mistakes. I wonder who will be paying at least the cost of reprinting the faulty brochures?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Own Ignorance

Neville Angove

 I really should have read the manual first.

I saw the film, "Law Abiding Citizen", yesterday. At his first court appearance, the protagonist (Butler) seems to go over the top by claiming that the judge "...took it in the arse...." This was not needed at this time in the plot. But at the movie's end, it was obvious why it was inserted by the director (no pun intended). It reinforced the director's argument that no matter how hard we tried to abide by the rules, those who claim to live by the rules will change them to win, effectively giving all of us it " the arse...."

Since I am a victim of this behaviour by the public servants of New South Wales and its Health Department, I do feel some sympathy. It is hard to struggle against people who only care to retain power and avoid responsibility, and who do this by changing the rules to make sure no one else has any power to even suggest that some of these servants of the public are avoiding responsibility.

At the moment, government in Australia is determined by whatever faction of the public servants is the most persuasive. The politicians can play their games, but the public servants control the information flow to and from the politicians, determine what policies will be implemented, and self-assess how well they implement these policies. Even a hunk of the media is subservient to the wishes of the public servants, if it wishes to receive government advertising. The Fairfax media is a prime example, always pushing the public service viewpoint and criticising the politicians. Murdoch's media, in the other hand, criticises anything according to its news value.

You would think that the avoidable deaths of between 5,000 and 30,000 hospital patients a year because of negligent hygiene would generate some attention. It doesn't.
It does get much of the supporting medical literature censored, though. The fact that most of those in the medical profession tend to be scientific and statistical illiterates does not help. Then, since medical professionals believe they are gods, they can't be taught, can they?

In any event, junior members of the medical profession cannot take their seniors to task over their negligence, not if they want careers. And the senior members can't take junior members to task over hygiene negligence, since they have been involved in covering up negligence cases for their whole careers.