Letters

I take issue with your leader on Alder Hey (1 February). From the best of motives, it perpetuates the NHS's arrogance in assuming it must 'protect' the public from the details of 'grim but necessary medical procedures'.

In our culture, the body is either allowed to rot in the ground, is tossed into the sea or burnt until it is ashes. Do you really believe these 'grim details' are lost on the grieving relatives? Most of us deal with the appalling details, grieve and eventually re-invest. An important part of being able to grieve is an acknowledgement of the truth of the 'grim details', otherwise known as a funeral.

The method of disposal of the body and the ritual of a funeral is, in broad terms, a choice made within the cultural tradition of that community. It is a sad time and we cope.

In most societies a dead body is treated with respect, because it embodies a once living and still loved entity. An important component of respect is the family's wishes regarding the method of disposal. As a clinician, I have seen both children and adults deal with the most appalling news. People can handle the truth providing it is delivered with respect and skill by professionals who themselves can handle it. They cannot handle so well not knowing, being told lies or being robbed of choice. Choice was taken from the families, the truth was withheld or distorted by lies and thus the children's bodies were desecrated in the families' eyes.

The real issue is that we give doctors and others a rigorous technical training and a much less rigorous training in handling their own and others' psychic pain. Some of the families have testified that had they been consulted they would have given permission. 'Sparing the families' is a dismal fig-leaf for the real purpose of most lies, which is sparing ourselves.

Philip Wolsey Director OPDC consultancy Yeovil Somerset