Wednesday, 23 February 2011

In the Cause of Good

I have watched an excellent programme since it first graced our screens in the Neolithic Era. At first, it was the theme tune, the giblets and the gore, but more and more I have found Casualty to be one those must-see things in a week (after Top Gear, of course). 

This week, in the midst of more power-struggling, doctors-gone-mad, domestic violence, fears on the part of a nurse about his own Family Jewels (seed of a storyline for us blokes later, mark my words), a boob-job-gone-gammy and the momentary possibility of romance, there was an account of a couple who were Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now, before I go a step further, that since my initial frustrations about the Visitors to My Door, the lovely couple who visit me periodically to deliver their magazine, chat, are generous with the constraints on my time of my work and family (that is to say, they do not outstay their welcome, and a quite clear that they mustn't) - they have become a pleasant addition to my life. We will disagree on almost everything, but in the end, I respect what they are doing and why, and they respect what I do and why. The adversarial sense on my door-step is gone, and we can have very mutual conversations without the old angsts. 

The story-line in Casualty this week depicted a pregnant lady and her partner, both brimming with hope for the future. She took a tumble down an escalator as a result, I think, of a problem with her blood and a faint. You can see where this is going. After the rather cynical (but I understand why) inclusion in the story of said mum-to-be being robbed at the bottom of the escalator, she emerged in hospital. They discovered that she was a JW and would not want a transfusion if the need arose. The need arose, catastrophically. There was then a very well played-out debate among the medical staff about the conflict of religious belief and medical need, and in the end, the woman died for the lack of the transfusion. Why this was good, and it was, was because for the first time, I heard the JW position on this issue presented clearly and without hysteria, in a balanced and debated form through the theatre of this programme. I understand now that for Witnesses, transfusions and the like are regarded as a barrier to a share in the Resurrection. Whist I happen not to believe that myself, I now have a greater respect for their perspective. The balance was drawn in the story by the partner, the father to the poorly baby, conceding to let him/her receive a life-saving transfusion. This wasn't a depiction of a religious person blinded by a faith position, albeit resolute in it. This was a depiction of a faithful Witness torn by life and death, faith and science. It was a story without judgement, without rhetoric, and without needless pathos. It seemed real, and generously portrayed. 

You all know my feelings about the excesses of our TV writers. Some love to take lives and turn them into grotesque theatre for our delight, and others are just clumsy and puerile. This episode will be memorable because it took a real struggle and offered it to us realistically. 


  1. Like you, I have watched Casualty (along with its later side-kick Holby City, and like you, consider it to be one of the best (consistently) dramas the Beeb has produced.
    The J W storyline was predictable up to the point where the husband gave his reasons for deciding to let his wife die and then it became something quite different. I used to work with a J W and found her a totally repellant character, quite the worst possible ambassador for her faith I've ever encountered. I have also been 'doorstepped' by members of this faith, once, on Christmas Day, and have never felt any empathy with their thinking, but the Casualty character really made me sit up and take notice. His belief was integral and his determination to abide by his wife's wishes totally believable. It seems even at my age it is possible to acquire new insights - even via the media.
    Sorry about the diatribe, but it was good was it not?

  2. I'm looking forward to the storyline where they section the person for refusing a blood transfusion and give it anyway. Casualty is not real life so this is not likely to happen.

  3. The Domestic violence involving Kirsty and Warren has dominated the series and makes me want to switch off What has happened to other cast members Nick Jordan is only in the show every couple of weeks. The show is declining and American imports of Medical dramas are so much better ER House are superb dramas



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