Artificial organs and puzzling questions

Baroness Murphy

First blog: a good day to start as I’ve been doing a typical day’s work in the Lords. Last week Lord Crisp happened to mention to me he had a question down for this coming Thursday on artificial organs–mechanical heart pumps, plastic corneas, lung simulators and so on and asked if I might contribute. I realised I knew very little about the topic, even though I’m a doctor…so I spent sometime this morning doing some research on the web in the US National Library of Medicine in Washington, the online research bible for medicine and talking to someone I thought could help me. Some fascinating research going on but it’s taking a long time for it to pay dividends in substituting for donor organ transplants.

Then a call later from Health Minister Lord Darzi’s office to ask me to send a briefing for a question I have tabled for next week which is “puzzling them”. It was on my list to do…pointless asking a question if the Minister hasn’t had the opportunity to be well briefed first and able to make sensible response. So I left the Chamber after questions, rushed over to my office in Millbank and wrote a briefing note which I shall also circulate to Lords from all sides of the House who I know have an interest in mental health issues.

I sometimes think colleagues in the Lords must think ‘Oh there she goes again’ on mental health but it’s so vital we improve everyone’s understanding of the extent of the problem of mental illness and how responsive it is to the right help. In fact I was at it again today because Baroness Stern asked a question on the plans for the government to consult on Titan prison proposals so I leapt up to ask whether the plans would improve access to mental health services for mentally disturbed prisoners. Not a bad response from justice minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and a reminder from him that I should talk to Lord Bradley who has been asked to look into this topic more closely.

Another thing on the to-do list and I must get fully up to speed with colleagues working in forensic mental health services in prisons first.I was expecting the Report stage of the Children and Young Persons Bill today but we had an extra committee day instead. What with that and the expected new legislation on the nationalisation of Northern Rock, the next two weeks’ Lords timetable is all change again. I cannot be the only peer who is infuriated by the inability of the House to devise a schedule and stick to it. Oddly enough the Lords could learn a lot from the best NHS hospitals in how to ensure that ’emergencies’ do not derail regular out-patients and ‘elective surgery’ time.

1 comment for “Artificial organs and puzzling questions

  1. 20/03/2008 at 5:35 pm

    Dear Baroness Murphy

    What a helpful and descriptive account of your work. I hope the blog doesn’t become overwhelming. If it stays under control, it could be an immensely valuable tool. In particular, it may help your Lordships to find new sources of expertise to assist with deliberations in the chamber, committee and elsewhere.

    I was drawn to your first comments,- concerning artificial organs. This is an area with which I am involved as a lawyer and as a Director of the East of England Stem Cell Network ( It is a rather narrow field, but someone has to do it. Please do feel free to contact me over matters of this sort.

    With the support of my firm I have just launched a blog of my own on the subject of cell and tissue law (imaginatively called “Cell Law”). These are very early days, but I hope it will begin to provide an interesting focus on matters of regenerative medicine, cell law and artificial organs.

    I wish you well and thank you for your comments. Your good work, and that of your fellow peers, is much appreciated.

    Kind regards

    Julian Hitchcock

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