Bermuda Post

Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

Modern society is 'so afraid of death' no one asks if lockdown measures to battle coronavirus are the right approach, says former Supreme Court judge

Former Justice Jonathon Sumption, 71, said public have 'irrational' fear of death. He listed historical epidemics with higher mortality rates and lesser 'hysteria' . Suggests that government measures will lead to different 'greater misfortunes'

Former Supreme Court Justice Jonathon Sumption believes that the public's 'irrational horror of death' has lead to unnecessarily 'costly' measures surrounding coronavirus.

Writing in The Sunday Times Lord Sumption, 71, a former judge turned author and medieval historian, stated that the strict governmental measures will bring 'even greater misfortunes of a different kind'.

He wrote: 'We have acquired an irrational horror of death. Today death is the great obscenity, inevitable but somehow unnatural. In the midst of life, our ancestors lived with death, an everpresent fact that they understood and accommodated.'

Lord Sumption went on to list a number of historic epidemics such as Bubonic plague, smallpox, cholera, typhoid, meningitis and Spanish flu, reminding people that such outbreaks with higher mortality rates were met with less 'hysteria'.

Adding: 'Fear is dangerous. It is the enemy of reason. It suppresses balance and judgment. And it is infectious. (...) Is the coronavirus the latest and most damaging example?'

He stated that earlier generations would struggle to understand the current hysteria over Covid-19, due to it having 'milder symptoms' than previous outbreaks.

The former judge believes it is the public's 'risk-adverse' attitude which has lead us to not accept 'the wheel of fortune'.

Lord Sumption said current government measures are inflicting suffering on other less obvious victims of the coronavirus, such as future generations who will be left to deal with 'high levels of public and private debt' and the one fifth of businesses being pushed into bankruptcy.

He believes it is fear which has prevented governments and the public from thinking about 'remote costs' of the measures brought in to avoid tragic coronavirus deaths, and adds that we do not know enough about the Covid-19 mortality rate, which he hints is lower than stated due to limited testing.

Making the comparison to cars, which he calls 'the most lethal weapons ever devised', as they kill and injure thousands every year, he states that society has accepted that fact as a 'Faustian bargin' in order to drive in comfort - suggesting we may have to take the same approach to coronavirus.

Meanwhile Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, warned that certain cancers which were until now thought survivable are to become 'inoperable' due to delays in the current crisis.

He told The Sunday Times: 'We know that if you operate in most early stage cancers, there is a high chance of a cure.

'If we wait too long before we operate the disease may spread beyond the primary site rendering cures less likely. Delays to surgery are of huge concern for many cancer charities.'

Currently 90 per cent of those with breast, bowel and ovarian cancers, survive when the disease is caught early.

This is due to early diagnosis and quickly scheduled surgeries.

Professor Swanton added: 'There is a risk that trusts may have to make a choice between ventilatory support for an acutely unwell patient with Covid-19 at the expense of an elective admission for primary surgery for a potentially curable tumour requiring a short post-operative stay in intensive care.'

A source close to The Department of Health told The Sunday Times that it was possible more people, including cancer patients, could die from delays to their treatment caused by the virus than from the coronavirus.

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