26 May 2005

National Health Service (Age Discrimination)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 26 May 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

… … …

National Health Service
(Age Discrimination)

… … …


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): When we see discrimination against older citizens in the NHS, we often see a reflection of broader, societal discrimination against older people. I make no particular criticism of the Executive's policies on discrimination against older people, but I share with all members a concern about the implementation of those policies and the practices of some people in some parts of the NHS.

One of the most moving examples of the contribution to society that people who are nearing the end of their life can make was the art that Rikki Fulton produced in the final few months of his life, when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, which was auctioned recently. That vividly brings home to us that the fact that someone is decaying in their mental or physical abilities does not mean that the inner person or their ability to continue to contribute to wider society is also decaying.

I was interested to note Mike Rumbles's fervent support for the debate. Of course, he is older than Nicol Stephen, so we can understand why he supports there being no discrimination against older people.

The word "discrimination" has been widely used. Carolyn Leckie's amendment says:

"urgent action needs to be taken to remove all forms of age discrimination within the NHS."

Richard Baker used similar language. Even the SNP motion calls for

"an independent inquiry into direct and indirect age discrimination".

All those references to removing discrimination, including that which is made in the SNP motion, are wrong, in the sense that we want discrimination—we want positive discrimination to support old people's issues. I hope that, as the debate draws to a conclusion, widespread agreement on that will emerge. We are talking about adverse discrimination. We must be careful about the shorthand that we use.

In wider society and in the NHS, we must respect the wishes—both negative and positive—of all our citizens. We should take account both of what they want to happen and what they want to avoid. The NHS is an institution that has power over life and death and over the quality of people's life and the quality of their death. Although I have not yet considered the matter in great depth, I would be most concerned if Mr Purvis's bill were to make health professionals party to anything that would appear to accelerate people's deaths. That issue must be examined.

I have a good story about the care of old people that I will share with members. During her final illness, my late mother-in-law received care in St John's hospital in West Lothian that was exceptionally good, to the extent that she was brought a glass of whisky every night so that she would sleep well. It was indeed the water of life—uisge-beatha.

I am dying; I do not know where, when or how I will die, but I know that I am dying. The old gave us the potential to be what we want to be. We must put service to our elderly before our interests and must ensure that we discriminate in favour of the elderly.


Stewart Stevenson
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However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

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