AS SOMEONE who is currently binge-watching the box set of ER, your reviewer is more than familiar with what happens in a hospital when a patient is brought into A&E. “One, two, three” — lift on to the bed — then pound that sternum until the dot on the monitor starts pinging again. Then you can all relax.
The presenter of Do Not Resuscitate (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week), Yasmeen Khan, has written for television and is fully prepared to admit that hospital dramas create expectations among us civilians which are rarely matched by reality. The proportion of admissions requiring cardio-pulmonary resuscitation who make it out of hospital alive is one in five. The procedure is brutal, often resulting in broken ribs and lasting pain. Those in the know can ask for a “Do not resuscitate” (DNR) order to be included in their medical notes.
And therein lies the second flawed expectation. The granting of a DNR order does not lie in the power of patient or family, but of the clinician. Issues of consent and transparency continue to be the most contentious aspect of DNR orders. The programme provided some representative examples, including that of Sonia, who discovered only by chance that a DNR order had been included in the medical file of her husband, Alan, when he returned home for what they assumed was a period of post-treatment convalescence.
It fell to Catherine Baldock, of the Resuscitation Council, to provide the take-home message: we must re-establish a relationship with death based on familiarity and realism. We must have conversations about death without subcontracting our responsibilities to the medics and the hospitals. Do it now, and certainly do not leave it until the doctor rears into view.
The 80th birthday of Bob Dylan provided a fine excuse for Heart and Soul (Friday, World Service) to review the so-called “gospel phase” of Dylan’s career: that period in the late 1970s and early ’80s which many Dylan devotees would prefer to forget, when their idol embraced Evangelical Christianity.
Having been tight-lipped with journalists and fans about his spiritual life, Dylan in this period opened up to such an extent that he was as content to preach to his audience as perform his songs. We heard from an Australian journalist, Karen Hughes, who landed the first interview after his “conversion”; and from a backing singer, Regina McCrary, who was hired in Nashville for her gospel-singing credentials. There was no doubt in their minds that Dylan was sincere in his discipleship; and, moreover, they deny that this was just “a phase”.
Brief mention must be made of the heroic efforts of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music to bring us Choral Evensong on Wednesday of last week (Radio 3). When singing has endured such cruel and unjustified privations, it is great to hear a professional choir continuing to work at its customary breakneck speed to pull together such an impressive package of newly commissioned repertoire.
Read Malcolm Guite on Bob Dylan here.