The safest place

Lord Norton

I continue to be fascinated by some of the search-engine terms that result in people being directed to this site.  Among recent terms are ‘puzzling questions in the bible’ and ‘men’s massage parlour + cochin’!  

Other terms are more straightforward and raise queries that are clearly relevant to the Lords and, more generally, Parliament. One recent one was ‘Are MPs’ salaries taxable?’  (The answer is yes.)  Another was ‘death in the House of Lords’.  I thought I would comment on this as it relates to a distinctive feature of the Lords and, indeed, the Palace of Westminster.

On paper, the Palace of Westminster rates as among the safest places for staying alive.  Formally, no one ever dies in the Palace.  Because it is a royal palace and, apparently, the royal coroner has to be present to certify a death, no one is certfied as having died there.  Rather, if anyone collapses and dies, they are certified as dead on arrival (DOA) at hospital. 

In reality, people do die in the Palace.  Some peers have collapsed and died in the chamber – one a few years ago immediately after speaking – as have some MPs.  One minister in the Commons was answering a question at the dispatch box when he collapsed.  Fortunately, there are several parliamentarians who are doctors and their presence can help save lives.  Defibrillators are also now available and staff are trained in first aid.  In a recent debate on the Embryology ad Human Fertilisation Bill, a senior member, Lord Brennan, collapsed shortly after he had spoken and his heart stopped.  If you are going to collapse, the best place to do it is in the House of Lords when it is debating a medical issue.  Within seconds, he was being attended by five doctors, including the minister Lord Darzi, one of the country’s leading surgeons.  Lord Brennan has been able to make a full recovery.  Had he collapsed in the street, he would be dead.  There are some clear advantages to being in the House!

7 comments for “The safest place

  1. 14/09/2008 at 5:08 pm

    Well, I’ll look forward to your account of the House’s men’s massage parlour!

    Search engines can be funny things. “Cochin” is mentioned in a previous post, but now you’ve written about search terms, the blog is the second Google result for ‘men’s massage parlour + cochin’!

  2. lordnorton
    14/09/2008 at 5:30 pm

    Jonathan: I think parliamentarians already get enough criticism for assumed perks of the job!

  3. Troika21
    14/09/2008 at 7:43 pm

    I can’t help but think that the need for defibrillators in the Parliament says alot about our leaders.

    Of course, it might say anything at all and its just ageism, but still … sometimes it looks like a retirement home than a place of national legislature.

  4. Troika21
    14/09/2008 at 7:56 pm

    Oops, that should say *nothing* above.

    Silly me, my mind must be going. I might need a doctor soon 😀

  5. lordnorton
    14/09/2008 at 10:11 pm

    Troika21: I think you will find that nowadays it is quite common for responsible institutions to have defibrillators. It is especially important in the Palace of Westminster which has about 1 million visitors a year and about 10,000 people working in it daily. Relatively speaking, parliamentarians tend to be a fairly healthy bunch.

  6. Troika21
    14/09/2008 at 10:48 pm

    Oh yeah, I forgot the PoW is a place to visit for the public, makes sense in that light.

  7. howridiculous
    15/09/2008 at 7:26 am

    Troika21, the need for a defibrillator reflects neither our leaders’ age nor their general health. My father – who is not a parliamentarian I hasted to add – was 55 when he needed one and had been in almost perfect health until his heart started playing up! Thanks to the machine, he is still with us.


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