View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas Lights


A widely publicised programme is currently being aired on a satellite TV channel, showing a man as he is assisted to die. Leaving to one side the question whether it is in good taste or decency to show someone's death on television, it does highlight the problems surrounding euthanasia in the UK.

In Holland, euthanasia has been regulated since the late 1970s, following a test-case. When someone expresses the desire to have their life terminated, a second medical opinion is sought. All options are discussed with the patient, and when both doctors are satisfied that there is no prospect of improvement of the condition, and that quality of life will only deteriorate, euthanasia can be arranged. Following the death of the patient, the doctor will fill out a death certificate and notify the judicial authorities of an unnatural death. If the public prosecutor is satisfied that the euthanasia has met all the required critera, no prosecutions will follow.

Euthanasia is naturally a subject of high emotion and potential for pitfalls and abuse. Whether the Dutch model would work in the UK is open for debate. There are those in favour and opposed to the practice. At present, anyone in Great Britain wishing to end their life will have to attend a clinic in Switzerland. Should euthanasia be carried out in the UK, prosecution will follow for those assisting the patient in ending their life.

Wednesday 10 December

Another great day for cloudscapes, even if the temperatures are not all that great: 5C / 41F. No prospects of that getting any higher soon, if anything, there is an advance warning of heavy snow fall in the north and east of the UK on Saturday.

Cathy (Dare to Think) had an interesting entry yesterday on the issue of the space-time continuum. Some 15,000,000,000 years ago, the Big Bang occurred, creating space and time. Echoes of that event still reverberate around the universe, which led Cathy to believe that you could get flashbacks from times past. She imagined that in December 2088, her home would be a park, and anyone passing through the park could come across a ghostly lady sipping cappucino tapping away at a computer keyboard, the way it was in December 2008.

I do not agree with that notion. In my opinion, there is only one constant in the Universe, and that is time. It marches forward at a set pace, which cannot be altered, stopped or reversed. It is the 4th dimension. Anything that has happened in the past cannot be changed, because it would have repercussions on the here and now. I'll give an example from my perspective here in Lewis.

In 1919, a troopship (HMY Iolaire) sank outside the harbour at Stornoway, drowning more than 200. As a result, a young man in one of the villages was forbidden from ever going to sea. He eventually emigrated to Canada, married and had children and grandchildren. Reading about the tragedy, one of the grandchildren contacted me, saying that without the tragedy she would never have been born. Point I'm making is that should someone (be able to) return to 1919 and alter the course of the Iolaire, this would have profound and immediate implications here and now. The lady I'm speaking about would cease to exist, e.g..

As for events leaving an imprint for posterity, well, I'm afraid I do not buy that either. Noise leaves an echo, correct. Events have consequences, and we see those consequences on a daily basis. But, in contradiction to Cathy's theory, atoms and molecules behave in a random fashion (called entropy), and only congregate as a result of random interactions, which, as a result of the laws of physics, lead to events. What went before is lost. A water molecule does not remember that it has fallen out of a cloud of other H2O molecules, into a huge basin of more H2O, imbibed by a bag of bones and flesh called a human being, and passed out again by said human being.

An attempt at philosophy. Feel free to take pot shots.