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June 26, 2011


Ron Graves

"But isn’t it also offensive to the poor to presume that they are feckless benefit fraudsters?"

Yes - even without any of the foregoing.


This is so good I want to cheer...


The argument fails for me because Shipman was a medical doctor. Medical doctors are members of the middle class, well up the wealth/respect scale; and 1% of the middle class are medical doctors.

Medical doctors have an exceptional place in law and society: with cause or consent, they undress people, cut them up, change the sex of babies, send adults off to psychiatric hospital and deliver overdoses to the dying (not what Shipman did).

Owen Jones has obviously spotted a failure to outrage. We can be outraged that Shipman's colleagues failed to spot him earlier. I'm not sure that he would be easy to spot.

I never met Harold Shipman, but I have met and known many medical doctors. Few seemed dodgy to me, thankfully, yet the educational process for doctors really is dodgy. There is something in the process that melds autonomy (justified) with authority (unjustified).


I am sure there are feckless middle class children and adults. But usually they have private wealth or considerate help to get over it, e.g. Chancellor Osbourne and his retakes of failed exams; Bill gates and his absence of punishment for delinquent conduct. Poor people don't get the same breaks, but that is partially the fault of the tory ( republican ) voting working class with their "better than you" attitude. Does Mr. Dacre create the howling mob or does he merely exploit it to sell papers? Filling market demand like any firm.

You could argue that the masses bring about their own oppressive by buying into the stigmatisation of single mothers or welfare benefit claiments. The middle class or rich stick together, the masses believe the Daily Mail and want the return of the work house. Capital punishment etc.

Power is a problem. But you can want power for good reasons. If you are a Doctor of medicine you may want respect for the knowledge you have acquired from demanding study. John Reid insisted he be called "Dr." for his History degree. An affectation to be sure but not the same as murdering old ladies. We should all be equal morally; yet it is not unreasonable to want recognition for say academic achievement. Both ideas can be held by the same person whatever their social class. The thing is to try to avoid being defined by class and its snobberies. We are human beings first; we thus want recognition for our achievements ( getting through medical school ) to satisfy our ego; and if we are Doctors of medicine we are the servants of our patients and bound by ethical codes independent of the state. Which is why Shipman is so shocking. The fact Business schools have taken to "Business Ethics" so keenly is a testament to the status we assign to people who do have a moral calling such as a Doctor of medicine. I wish them good luck trying to extend morality to Business and Banking. Lets hope they succeed!


That is "Oppression" in para two! Sorry.


Speaking as a murderer, I'm appalled to be stereotyped as middle class...


(Joke, future employers!)


The crimes committed by Matthews and Shipman both sprang out of their life circumstances and were closely related to them. In some senses, this is connected to their social class.

Matthews earned her living by having lots of children and claiming benefits for them. She naturally saw her children as a source of income. Using Shannon in a slightly novel way for the same purpose probably did not seem to her to be a particularly depraved step. This should make us think not so much about how ghastly “chavs” are, but the kind of moral distortions that can result from the benefits system.

As a doctor, Shipman had a great deal of power over his patients, especially the elderly ones, many of whom will have been weak, confused and isolated and brought up not to question the words and actions of a doctor. His power was augmented by what amounted to a culture of complicity among members of the medical profession. He was no doubt aware of how his decisions could shorten or prolong the lives of his patients. In some cases, it was probably the case that shortening the life was the more humane option.

As in the Matthews case, Shipman’s crimes were not a very dramatic deviation from standard behaviour. Except in their number, they are unlikely to have been all that unusual.

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