Coming soon: The New Statesman Century

Weidenfeld & Nicolson's 100th anniversary book will feature contributions from George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and Hugh Grant.

 

From Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 

Weidenfeld & Nicolson to publish

THE NEW STATESMAN CENTURY

Alan Samson, Publisher Non-Fiction, has bought World Rights from Sophie Lambert of Tibor Jones & Associates for THE NEW STATESMAN CENTURY  edited by the magazine ‘s own editor, Jason Cowley. The book will be published by W&N in August 2013 to mark the magazine’s centenary year.

THE NEW STATESMAN CENTURY will celebrate 100 years of stellar and influential journalism with a fascinating selection of the most interesting, groundbreaking and amusing writing to have appeared in the magazine.  Contributors include George Orwell, WB Yeats, HG Wells, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Christopher Hitchens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Dawkins and Hugh Grant.

No British periodical or weekly magazine has a richer and more distinguished archive than the New Statesman, which has long been at the centre of British political and cultural life.  If not quite at the centre, then at the most energetic, subversive end of the progressive centre-left.  

Most of the great political and cultural writers of the last 100 years or so have written for the New Statesman.  Many have been on its staff or were associates of it: HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, V.S. Pritchett, Paul Johnson, Christopher Hitchens and John Gray.  Many of the radical causes of our times were launched in association with or in the pages of the New Statesman -.  for example, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Charter 88.  There is, too, a rich history of illustration and cartoons to draw on, from Low's sketches of the great and the good to the gonzo art of Ralph Steadman and Will Self's early comic strips.

The book is much more than an anthology.  It tells the story of the New Statesman century, from the eve of the First World War to the long aftermath of 9/11 and the Great Recession through which we are still passing.  It looks forward as well as back, offering a unique and unpredictable perspective on a tumultuous century.

Jason Cowley said: “We are delighted to be collaborating on this project with Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a publishing house as distinguished and venerable as the New Statesman itself. The book should delight anyone with an interest in good writing, and the history, politics and literature of a tumultuous century.”

Jason Cowley is a journalist, magazine editor and writer.  He became editor of the New Statesman in October 2008. Before that he was the editor of Granta magazine and a senior editor and writer on the Observer. In 2009 and 2011 he was named editor of the year in the Newspaper and Current Affairs Magazines category at the British Society of Magazine Editors awards. He is the author most recently of a memoir, The Last Game (2009).

Published by W&N in August 2013 at £20 in hardback and £10.99 in eBook. For further information please contact Helen Richardson on 0207 520 4449 or email helen.richardson@orionbooks.co.uk

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All doctors kill people – and the threat of prosecution is bad for everyone

We must recognise the reality of medical practice: just because a doctor makes a mistake, that doesn’t mean they’ve all broken the law. 

On 15 November the Court of Appeal quashed the 2013 conviction for gross negligence manslaughter (GNM) of a senior consultant surgeon in London, David Sellu. Sellu, who had completed his prison term by the time the appeal was heard, will never get back the 15 months of his life that he spent in jail. Nor will the personal and family trauma, or the damage to his reputation and livelihood, ever properly heal. After decades of exemplary practice – in the course of the investigation numerous colleagues testified to his unflappable expertise – Sellu has said that he has lost the heart ever to operate again.

All doctors kill people. Say we make 40 important decisions about patients in a working day: that’s roughly 10,000 per annum. No one is perfect, and medical dilemmas are frequently complex, but even if we are proved right 99 per cent of the time, that still leaves 100 choices every year where, with the benefit of hindsight, we were wrong.

Suppose 99 per cent of those have no negative consequences. That’s still one disaster every 12 months. And even if most of those don’t result in a fatal outcome, over the course of a career a few patients are – very regrettably – going to die as a result of our practice. Almost invariably, these fatalities occur under the care of highly skilled and experienced professionals, working in good faith to the very best of their abilities.

If one of these cases should come before a crown court, the jury needs meticulous direction from the trial judge on the legal threshold for a criminal act: in essence, if a doctor was clearly aware of, and recklessly indifferent to, the risk of death. Sellu’s conviction was quashed because the appeal court found that the judge in his trial had singularly failed to give the jury these directions. The judiciary make mistakes, too.

Prosecutions of health-care professionals for alleged GNM are increasing markedly. The Royal College of Surgeons of England identified ten cases in 2015 alone. This must reflect social trends – the so-called “blame culture”, in which we have come to believe that when a tragedy occurs, someone must be held responsible. In every one of these cases, of course, an individual’s life has been lost and a family left distraught; but there is a deepening sense in which society at large, and the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in particular, appear to be disconnected from the realities of medical practice.

Malpractice investigation and prosecution are horrendous ordeals for any individual. The cumulative impact on the wider health-care environment is equally serious. In a recent survey of doctors, 85 per cent of respondents admitted that they were less likely to be candid about mistakes, given the increasing involvement of the criminal law.

This is worrying, because the best way to avoid errors in future is by open discussion with the aim of learning from what has gone wrong. And all too often, severely adverse events point less to deficiencies on the part of individuals, and more to problems with systems. At Sellu’s hospital, emergency anaesthetic cover had to be arranged ad hoc, and this contributed to delays in potentially life-saving surgery. The tragic death of his patient highlighted this; management reacted by putting a formal rota system in place.

Doctors have long accepted the burden of civil litigation, and so insure themselves to cover claims for compensation. We are regulated by the General Medical Council, which has powers to protect patients from substandard practice, including striking off poorly performing doctors. The criminal law should remain an exceptional recourse.

We urgently need a thorough review of the legal grounds for a charge of GNM, with unambiguous directions to the police, CPS and judges, before the spectre of imprisonment becomes entrenched for those whose only concern is to provide good care for their patients. As Ken Woodburn, a consultant vascular surgeon in Cornwall who was accused and acquitted of GNM in 2001, has said: “You’re only ever one error away from a manslaughter prosecution.”

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage