Prof Jim Dornan: Politically, NI is a sick patient — let voters choose treatments

Treatments for political stalemate are already available to prescribe. We just need the equivalent of National Institute for Clinical Excellence to give us the go ahead to prescribe them ' Stormont  ' and for that to happen difficult decisions have to be taken off its hands
Treatments for political stalemate are already available to prescribe. We just need the equivalent of National Institute for Clinical Excellence to give us the go ahead to prescribe them ' Stormont ' and for that to happen difficult decisions have to be taken off its hands

Dear fellow citizen,

Reflecting after over forty years practice of medicine, I see similarities between problem solving in my medical life’s work, and our local political scenario.

Jim Dornan is chair Health and Life Sciences University of Ulster and is retired former chair Fetal Medicine QUB

Jim Dornan is chair Health and Life Sciences University of Ulster and is retired former chair Fetal Medicine QUB

To solve a problem, medics take a history, examine the patient, perform appropriate investigations, reach a diagnosis, and implement treatment, whilst always remembering the maxim “beware the patient with two diseases!!”

Yet politically Northern Ireland is a very sick patient, with six conditions at present!! Brexit, RHI, dealing with the past, cultural language acts, equal marriage and termination rights for women. (Never mind the genetic background of the constitutional position. I’ll leave that for another day. We are where we are!)

The first two are being addressed. Brexit is out of our hands...at present. We’re on the hip replacement waiting list for RHI. The professor has seen us and is awaiting a theatre spot when he will perform his task in a professional and worthy manner, befitting of a top craft specialty surgeon.

That leave us with four conditions that need addressed. We, the people, need to encourage and empower our politicians to get on with it and prescribe treatments. Treatments that are already available to prescribe.

We just need the equivalent of NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) to give us the go ahead to prescribe them. That equivalent body is Stormont, which could be up and running in days, if we, the people, took the responsibility out of their hands and simply told them what it is we want.

We will do this by the use of referenda on all four to gauge what we collectively desire. Democracy in practice.

The Past..A tragic running sore for sure. But yet, so sensitively, meaningfully and carefully addressed exactly ten years ago (23/1/09) by Eames and Bradley.

In truth their report was ahead of its time, but the suggestion that compensation of £12.5k for all, didn’t sit well with some, and sadly, neigh tragically, dominated the media response. So it came to pass that Eames Bradley was put to the back of the medicine cupboard.

But in the past decade I sense that society has moved on. Yes the problems of the past and how to deal with it remain, but I believe the people are collectively nowadays much more aware of mental health issues, and grief is more openly discussed.

There’s an increasing openness and an awareness that we all mourn the same, and that death and physical and mental damage and the sequelae of same doesn’t discriminate.

The families of the legally armed, the illegally armed, unarmed, the apparently innocent and the downright guilty are all bereaved equally. Therefore all relatives must be treated equally. So let the people decide. Should we revisit Eames Bradley and accept it in its entirety in an effort to help the community address the past?

A big step, a powerful treatment, but with a very good chance of working if there was a sensible time of post treatment recuperation, away from the limelight.

Then three condition strikingly similar to gall stones. You have them, they occasionally flare up, and you know it would be better to undergo surgery, before it’s too late.

Firstly, the cultural languages debacle. The word on the street is that our politicians were very close to agreeing how to move forward on this one in February 2018, just before talks broke down. So again, the treatment is ready to go. Simply ask the people if they would welcome the introduction of cultural acts that address our heritage languages, which, in truth, have an awful lot in common.

Indeed I’m no expert, but I’m told even Gaelic actually was initially the language of the West of Britain and is spoken to this day by Presbyterians in the island’s off the West of Scotland, where they’re so pious they don’t even smile on a Sunday!

Next up is equal marriage. A straight binary choice. There are many who strongly oppose the idea for what they see as biblical reasons, and those who do not.

It seems that an increasing number of our people believe that while they respect others having views based on their own religious beliefs, they really don’t think those same people should bring them into the political decision making arena, unless they are clearly those of the democratic majority. The minority cannot trump the majority for religious reasons. Period. So, put it to the people. Yes? No?

That leaves us with Sexual and Reproductive rights, of which there are many, but termination of pregnancy in limited circumstances are the most controversial.

A sensitive area, but doctors cannot go on working in a very uncertain, often fear driven, environment where women who access termination are criminalised.

Continuing to ban termination for just about all doesn’t make it go away. Quite simply, if you’re against safe abortion, you’re therefore for unsafe abortion. Because beings against something doesn’t make it go away, but rather makes it go underground.

As someone who has spent my life saving as much life as I could, I would be supporting a change in our legislation.

We should not ask for the introduction of the Gt Britain ‘67 Act, but the people could be asked, “Relaxation of NI’s termination laws? Yes? No?”

So there you are folks. Let the NI citizens decide in a referenda the treatments, with the instruction that whatever we decide will be implemented by our local assembly within the first session of government.

Surely that’s not too much to ask?

Thereafter we can get on with the aftermath of Brexit, building the economy, improving our healthcare, educating our kids and helping all our citizens get an enriched work life balance.

• Professor Dornan is chair Health and Life Sciences University of Ulster and is retired former chair Fetal Medicine QUB