Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What the judge said to Norris

Staff Nurse Colin Norris has been imprisoned for life after having been convicted of murdering four elderly ladies with insulin.

It appears that the nearest thing to a motive that could be found for Norris' vile deeds is that he didn't like old people.

Personally, I had hoped that the era of health workers killing hospital patients with insulin was over, after it became general practice to put locks on fridges containing insulin in the wake of the Beverley Allitt investigation. But not so, it appears; an investigation into security in Leeds General Hospital has found that staff in Ward 36, where Norris worked, left the door to the treatment room propped open and, crucially, the fridge where the insulin was stored without a lock. So, even if Norris did not have access to the drug-keys, he would have been able to walk into the treatment room and draw up insulin.

Having diabetics in my family, I know what small amounts are needed to regulate blood-sugar levels in individuals with no endogenous supply of the hormone. Did nobody notice that the insulin bottle was emptying faster than usual?

Or was it that there was an assumption among some members of staff that ill older people were more or less at the end of the road, therefore they didn't think to question sudden deteriorations?

Whenever a young person is murdered, people say that they had the rest of their lives in front of them, and so they should. But this statement is just as true of a 90-year-old who has her life cut short as it is of a 19-year-old: both had the rest of their lives in front of them, no matter how long or how short that might have been.

The judge told Norris that he disliked elderly people because they needed too much care.

The Archbishop of Westminster is one of many people who warned about the shift from the right to die, as enshrined in the advance directive provision of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to the "duty to die". Older people's inadequate pensions cost too much, they fall over too often, visiting them - or finding excuses not to - uses up time that we might have happily wasted, they are too...old.

Norris is no more than a product of the society in which he was immersed and from which he took his values. Any younger people who harbour aspirations to become older people should pay heed to the judge's words to Norris, as they might have been directed towards that society as a whole.

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