Sunday, 22 August 2010
Recent media coverage in respect of the death of Dr David Kelly places the layperson in a difficulty.
On one hand, we have the respected and sensible writer David Aaronovitch in his Voodoo Histories assuring us that there is nothing to worry about. (See his Times article here for a taste of his approach.)
He is joined today by the incisive Nick Cohen, a good friend of this Blog, who emphasises the role of the media in bringing about the apparent suicide.
And that the death was a suicide is backed up by Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who actually carried out the post-mortem examination, who is quoted as saying:
"I felt very, very sorry for David Kelly and the way he had been treated by the government... I had every reason to look for something untoward and would dearly love to have found something.
"It was an absolute classic case of self-inflicted injury. You could illustrate a textbook with it."
A group of seemingly eminent medical professionals and experienced coroners have stated that there are unanswered questions about the cause of death.
In particular, they are quoted as saying:
"Insufficient blood would have been lost to threaten life. Absent a quantitative assessment of the blood lost and of the blood remaining in the great vessels, the conclusion that death occurred as a consequence of haemorrhage is unsafe."
I do not think any of their points are self-evidently fanciful or bizarre. Their backgrounds do not suggest that they are crackpot conspiracy theorists.
And to simply say there are questions outstanding, of course, is not to in any way endorse a conspiracy theory.
So what should the layperson do when faced with such conflicting information?
I would suggest the correct response is to call for a proper inquest.
The conclusions of distinguished writers such as Aaronovitch and Cohen are important, as are the quoted views of the pathologist who examined the body; but to put the question beyond reasonable doubt surely requires a public inquest by a coroner.
And it was undoubtedly a mistake for one not to have taken place.
UPDATE - the Hutton Report's detailed account of the death is here.
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