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Rob Harteveldt: ‘Nurses need to familiarise themselves with this bill’

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My stepdaughter is a vegetarian, and although I respect her beliefs, I disagree with her views on animal research.

I love animals as much as the next person, especially the little furry ginger cat up the road but if I believed its genetic code could cure cancer, then I’m afraid it’s a goner.

But despite her disdain for my comments over the ginger moggy, my stepdaughter does not, like some, believe that anyone who interferes with mother nature should
be viewed as fair game for attack.

If we’re not careful, any progress that advances our knowledge of disease will be attacked to the point where no progress will be made – whether that attack comes from animal or human rights activists or, more recently, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Cardinal O’Brien is the Roman Catholic archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and he used his Easter Sunday homily to attack the human fertilisation and embryology bill. He spoke of hideous Frankenstein practices as scientists seek to create animal-human hybrid embryos. He added that those who participate in such monstrous proposals should be jailed – and indeed would be in other European countries.

To me, this is like the blinkered thinking of the dark ages, the ranting of a man who stands in the way of progress, a man whose life is devoted to worshipping a god for whose existence there is no evidence.

I just don’t get it. When my 26-year-old wife was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, I prayed like no one has prayed before, and she still died – so perhaps you can understand my anger when influential people like Cardinal O’Brien spout off about how difficult it is to imagine any legislation that attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life more than this bill.

Come to the wards, cardinal. There you will see that, despite the best efforts of all, there is little dignity for patients dying with cancers or one of the numerous diseases.

Nurses should familiarise themselves with the bill – it will affect patient care. It is likely to be passed, which will be a victory for common sense. It will also be a victory for a future that will be driven, not as Cardinal O’Brien suggests, by evil scientists creating creatures with the head of a man and the body of a horse, but by a commitment to eliminate the suffering that coexists with the vulnerability of the human body. Something that mother nature – and perhaps even god – have often failed to do.

Rob Harteveldt is cardiac liaison nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

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