7 JULY 1967, Page 32

Sentence of death

Sir: It was not my intention to generate corre- spondence when writing previously (Letters, 16 June). It is significant, though, that both your correspondents are surgeons—does none of their employers feel inclined to defend them?

It is regrettable that the lambs in ex-reader BerriII's waiting room will be denied the SPECTATOR, but they will, of course, be happy that ex-reader Berri!! knows that he knows best. But can he please explain why, if he will only tell a patient of approaching death after consulting with a relative, he will decide not to inform the patient without consulting a relative?

Both your correspondents have automatically assumed their 'Doctor knows best and the children cannot understand' attitudes. A person who knows that death is coming is able to make dispositions and prepare himself. Surgeon Eisinger's dramatic suicide story at least shows that the patient had the satisfaction of choosing his own form of death.

With regard to the accepted truth that there are two standards of treatment, would Dr Eisinger be kind enough to state the delays in awaiting surgery as an NHS and as a private patient? As a clue I will tell him that in Brighton you wait three years as an NHS patient for minor surgical treatment to varicose veins. A private patient, surprise, surprise, waits three weeks. What is this but money-grubbing? Why, I wonder, do doctors so frequently describe themselves as de- voted and dedicated without specifying the objects of their devotion and dedication? Might it be that they are devoted to maintaining their own positions and dedicated to pushing private prac- tice—so much more lucrative than a merit award?

My stepfather still being ignorant of his future, I would be grateful for continued anonymity.