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Lawyers left stunned after ex-Supreme Sumption tells cancer sufferer her life is ‘less valuable’ on national TV

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Former top judge insists comment was taken out of context

Lord Sumption appearing on BBC’s The Big Questions over the weekend

Several prominent lawyers have come out on Twitter slamming ex-Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption after appearing to tell a stage four bowel cancer sufferer that her life was “less valuable” than others during a televised debate on the coronavirus lockdowns over the weekend.

Sumption, 72, made the comment to Deborah James, 39, during BBC’s The Big Questions yesterday morning. The former top judge insists the comment was taken out of context.

It was questioned during the televised debate whether the coronavirus lockdown is “punishing too many for the greater good”, to which Sumption said he did not accept that “all lives are of equal value”.

The ex-Supreme, who served on the UK’s top bench from 2012 until his retirement in 2018, went on to say he believed his children’s and grandchildren’s lives were worth more than his “because they’ve got a lot more of it ahead”.

In response to Sumption’s remarks, James, a podcaster who has stage four metastatic bowel cancer, said: “With all due respect, I am the person who you say their life is not valuable.”

Sumption interjected, saying, “I didn’t say it was not valuable, I said it was less valuable.”

His comments were widely condemned online, with Doughty Street Chambers human rights barrister Adam Wagner describing them as “inhumane, almost grotesque”. He added: “Where there are scarce resources (e.g. donor organs) you do have to have these horrific debates about who gets priority. But to use the argument that some people’s lives are ‘more valuable’ to protect in the context of lockdown versus no lockdown is, I think, extremely problematic.”

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Meanwhile, commercial silk and co-head of Hardwicke Chambers PJ Kirby QC wrote: “Lord Sumption is aware of the importance of language and meaning that will be conveyed. Of course there are always difficult decisions re. priorities and resources. That is not what he said. He said that a cancer sufferer’s life was less valuable than others.”

12 King’s Bench Walk employment and personal injury barrister David Green said: “Lord Sumption is a far cleverer lawyer than I will ever be; but I’d swap every brain-cell in my head to avoid being as horrible as he evidently is.”

Sumption has since insisted his comments were taken out of context.

He told the Mail Online: “I object extremely strongly to any suggestion that I was inferring that Miss James’s life was less valuable because she had cancer.”

He said he thought she was responding to his earlier comments made during the show about harm done to the young through lockdowns designed to protect the elderly from COVID-19.

“If Miss James has misinterpreted that then I can only apologise to her as it was not my intention to suggest she was less valuable,” Sumption continued. “Sometimes on video-links it can be difficult to hear what the other person is saying.”

Lockdown sceptic Sumption has long been critical of the government’s COVID-19 strategy. During an online lecture organised by Cambridge University in the autumn, he accused ministers of deliberately stoking up fear and acting with a “cavalier disregard for the limits of their legal powers”. They had no power to pass lockdown regulations under the Public Health Act, he argued.

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83 Comments

anon

Sumption was too abrupt and framed his argument poorly (especially given an audience of the general public) but he’s still entirely correct. He isn’t a eugenicist for saying this.

The same principle is applied by every health service in the world. It would be negligent to not take into account QALYs. The NHS is not a eugenics institution, and Sumption is not a eugenicist for pointing out what health services do in practice.

That said, he could and should have had far more tact than this. He was largely baited by the show organisers here. Although, part of me thinks that perhaps a stage 4 cancer sufferer shouldn’t be participating in a debate if they aren’t able to confront facts dispassionately (it’s completely reasonable for them to respond emotively).

(135)(26)

AislaS

A ludicrous hit job.
Sumption is not wanted by the elites ,due to his clear stand on the Covid scam.
It’s clear what he’d have meant, the fact that his detractors have already actually deemed whose lives matter more than others by their policies and determinations shows rank hypocrisy.
But who expects anything else of the lockdown quislings and armed militias apologists?
The Covid consequences have destroyed peoples ” life chances” and businesses/ employment for a generation now …has sentenced people to drawn out, depressed anxious and lonely deaths and dispatching . It has been a welcome mat for those without hope to commit suicide.
Yet who’s been bothering about all of this? As long as we can still get paid for ” working from home” in public sector sinecures, then why would we want anything other but easy money, whilst sneering at Sumption etc.

(43)(11)

Anonymous

Extremely clumsy words by a man who has made a career from the precision of his words…

The underlying point is true though, hence why the organ allocation policies are the way they are.

(64)(12)

Just Anonymous

On this one, I fully endorse the following 20 second analysis from the late Christopher Hitchens.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k73Rfyu0DI

In my opinion, Lord Sumption’s argument was entirely correct, reasonable and logical. I of course have huge sympathy with Miss James, as I would with any cancer sufferer. However, there is a very real and serious point here behind Lord Sumption’s analogy: are we effectively destroying the futures of an entire generation merely to extend (by relatively small amounts) the lives of those that would probably come to an end relatively soon through other natural causes in any event; and if that’s the case, are such restrictions justified?

Now, maybe you think my characterisation wrong. Maybe you think it right – but you think that these restrictions are justified nevertheless. That’s fine. All opinions are welcome and should be heard and fully argued.

However, with the best will in the world, there is no room at the table for those who can’t handle discussion of these issues because they are not emotionally robust enough to handle them.

(116)(11)

You got Hitch-slapped

The legendary Christopher Hitchens, a dreadnought on the debating stage. His impeccable spoken and written word is in such short supply these days. I was genuinely sad the day I found out he had lost his battle to cancer and passed away.

(43)(0)

Anonymous

He’s right, a huge majority of people agree with him.

Twitter is so often full of ridiculously liberal views that have no basis in rational reality and unfortunately, you’ve just aired some of them.

People are dying as a result of lockdown. Suicides are doubling cancer sufferers (like myself) are being refused treatment for a virus that kills people whose remaining life expectancy is microscopic compared to mine. The question is whether these deaths are worth the lives that (he submits, with evidence) aren’t even based as human intervention is fruitless.

If you can’t understand this argument and instead kick up an emotive fuss on Twitter, you have no business being a lawyer. These are decisions made by doctors every single day and I’m seriously struggling to understand everyone’s outrage around it.

(92)(13)

Anonymous

Aren’t even being saved * as human intervention is fruitless.

(20)(2)

Anon

Well said

(11)(3)

Anon

Personally I would disagree- I am 26 with fairly severe asthma and would be adversely affected by the virus if I caught it. You wouldn’t know I had asthma on the face of things and I’m fairly sure I have a few years left in me! I agree that lockdown is extreme and horrific, but I wouldn’t say I have a microscopic life expectancy and not all people who are vulnerable to this virus are old.

(23)(47)

Anonymous

You are missing the point.

1. Lockdown if you want to as a vulnerable person .

2. Overwhelming evidence to suggest lockdowns do not work.

3. Lockdowns will most likely kill many people for all the points discussed.

Nobody wants you to die and please attempt to keep the debate reasoned with evidence and fact rather than emotion as this is more likely to save more lives overall. Hopefully you can appreciate the fairness of this.

(38)(15)

Fact checker

Love the reference to evidence when in neither of your posts you provide any. Are you Jeremy Corbyn’s brother by any chance?

(12)(23)

Anon

I think the term collective responsibility is lost on a lot of people. Are you a fan of Julia Hartley-Brewer by any chance?

(7)(16)

Anon

I don’t think they are missing the point. Lockdowns have a drastic effect where people follow the rules. The issue is that people aren’t following them because they don’t have the moral fibre to sacrifice for others or have been misled by reactionaries on social media. Lockdowns will not kill more people, cancer treatments etc are not being delayed because of lockdown. They are being delayed because the NHS can’t cope with the number of people needing treatment. This number is so large and overwhelming due to:

1. The number of people not following the rules (see above).
2. The government’s delayed response to the pandemic last year.

There are plenty of countries, predominantly in the east, who dealt with this quickly and effectively and are now basically back to normal. These countries tend to have a greater sense of duty to their fellow countrymen and their governments acted quickly and decisively.

My last point would be that lockdowns and the very real prospect of serious illness or death from this virus is an emotive subject and peoples emotions absolutely do need to be accounted for. Just because you are unable to recognise that does not mean it should be excluded from the debate.

(15)(26)

Scouser of Counsel

Debates require reasoned evidence.

Here is some reasoning in favour of lockdown.

1. The virus is spread by contact with other people.

2. The fewer people you have contact with, the less likely you are to contract it.

3. Staying indoors minimises the contact you have with other people.

4. You are thereby less likely to contract the virus if you do so.

Unless you’re some kind of nut job who is convinced that the virus is fake (tell that to my Uncle who was in intensive care and nearly died from it), then I would be delighted to hear your reasoned responses.

(26)(36)

Anon

Judging by the downvotes on Scouser of Counsel there are either a lot of nut jobs interacting with these posts or the majority of lawyers don’t understand the very basics of virus transmission.

Proper London Counsel

Judging by the downvotes on Scouser of Counsel, the majority of lawyers understand the basics of virus transmission and therefore rightly think that he is talking rubbish.

Anon

Proper London Counsel, ermmmm, go on then I’ll bite, enlighten me. How is the virus mainly transmitted if not through contact with other people?

Archibald Pomp O'City

Proper London Counsel and Anon:

You should not assume

1) that the responses to these posts are generally from lawyers

2) that downvotes are a reliable indicator of what lawyers think

3) that 26 downvotes means that 26 unique individuals downvoted the post

Yamyam of Counsel

Your response does not provide any evidence, much less reasoned evidence.

1) Viruses are not spread by contact with people, they are spread through droplets from the respiratory system. SARS-CoV-2 can last three hours in the air and up to 3 days on surfaces. The primary method by which the virus is transmitted into water droplet form is through a sneeze. You can go and lick 100 covid positive patience on 90% of their body and you will likely not catch any viruses. Just don’t snog them or share a caprisun.

2) The number of people is irrelevant, it is the number of symptomatic people, with the virus that you are either sharing the air with, or touching something that they have touched within the last 72 hours. As most symptomatic people will not be out and about there is a comparatively low risk that an individual walking around town will be a vector for the virus, this risk is reduced to negligible levels if YOU take some precautions and avoid crowds, wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly and use hand sanitizer.

3) As I have already set out in 2 the quantity of person is not the problem it is the type of person and level of exposure. The virus, as set out in 1, can live for days on solid materials… such as amazon packages, take away food containers, grocery bags being delivered etc etc. A shop keeper might change their gloves with every customer.. do you think the delivery driver, whose livelihood depends on making as many deliveries as quickly as possible with be as cautious? And the less said about the impact on the human immune system cause by lengthy isolation the better.

4) You have provided no evidence for this statement and it is dependent on your three previous and flawed assertions.

Isolate yourself if you are vulnerable, if you are vulnerable and must go out, wear a mask, if you show symptoms stay home, wash your hands frequently, don’t lick things you find in the street. This guidance would be sufficient.. but people don’t like it because it requires them to take responsibility. Why do that when you can demand lockdown and then call anyone who dares flout the oppressive regimes “selfish”, even though it is the individual demanding others wear masks, demanding they stay in their house who is being selfish.

Anon

Entirely correct and I suspect most of us who are not of the pearl clutching variety would agree. I wonder if he would get as much negative press as he has if his politics were different.

(36)(7)

AMButler

“pearl clutching variety”! What a wonderful turn of phrase

(3)(0)

Anon

This isn’t a question of law, it’s a question of ethics. Questions of law come later. So why is Lord Sumption even being consulted? Distributive justice around healthcare (I.e. questions of who ought to get what) is a matter that medical ethicists have expertise on, not lawyers or judges. Lord Sumption’s view on the matter carries no greater weight than anyone else’s. He’s an expert lawyer, but a layman in ethics. That’s reflected in his uneducated answer. (I teach medical ethics, so can comment).

(14)(73)

Anon

If you teach that why hide as anon?

(46)(9)

Anon

Absolutely agree. This shows the arrogance held by many in this profession in my opinion. Imagine having so little emotional intelligence
and moral and ethical fibre that you go on national television and tell someone who is dying that their life is less valuable than others.

(7)(29)

Anon

“Imagine having so little emotional intelligence
and moral and ethical fibre that you go on national television and tell someone who is dying that their life is less valuable than others.”

He didn’t say that.

(22)(3)

Anon

My apologies, he said that he did not accept that all lives are of equal value” this infers that he thinks some people’s lives are of less value than others. He said it to one of the people whose life he was inferring is of less value. Is that better for you?

(4)(17)

Anon

Not quite, sweetie. He wasn’t referring to Ms James or her condition. Wake up.

Anon

If you believe his “I’m sorry if apology” which anyone who watched it wouldn’t.
Anyone with any intelligence would know it is also not an apology. I’m sorry “Sweetie” but he definitely did.

Steven Gerrard

A learned man such as Sumption with incredible intellect and reasoning should not have his say on an ethical matters!

Note to anyone wishing to make a comment: if you have not passed a university course in medical ethics you may not post on this page. Please find your own relevant page relating to your studied subject or keep quiet if you do not have a degree. Signed Anon.

(26)(4)

Anon

He’s a Supreme Court justice you moron, do you honestly think he has no education in ethics?!

(13)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

“I teach medical ethics, so can comment”

What the hell do you know?

(9)(0)

Clive

Out of interest, what is your learned ethical position on locking down the young (including shutting schools for long periods) to protect the elderly / older vulnerable, in the face of virus / disease that does not greatly afflict the young?

(11)(1)

Anon

As someone trained in ethics, how do you feel about the ethics of the view that only people trained in ethics can express a view on ethics?

(53)(1)

Anon

Everyone can express a view – but not all views carry the same weight. Views can be informed or not informed. Lawyers are experts in law. Medics are expert in medicine. Ethicists are experts in ethics. Questions of the value of life, and the resource distribution implications, are ethical questions that people devote careers to becoming informed on. Unless you’re in the expert-denier camp.

(6)(46)

anon

Law and medicine are almost entirely objective (if not a bit ambiguous in places).

Ethics is subjective by its very nature. Being an ethicist doesn’t give you more authority on the subject of ethics, it just means you know more vocabulary and can make better/fancier sounding arguments on ethical issues.

(62)(3)

Anon

This issue of whether ethics is subjective has been hotly debated for 2 millenia. It’s generally covered on the first year of an undergraduate philosophy course. But why read all that stuff? That would be hard work. We’ve solved the debate on this legal news forum, thanks for figuring that out for us.

If you are genuinely interested in learning something – you can read up the debate on whether ethics is subjective or objective. Subjectivism about ethics is one view, but it isn’t the dominant view. One thing that follows from that is that the view that ‘murder is wrong’ becomes a matter of opinion, and that looks unpalatable to many. So many claim that ethical principles have an objective status. This explains in part why there is convergence on ethical norms across cultures. All of this is a debate that one can be more or less informed on. Same with the value of life debate.

I’m not sure I’d dismiss ethics as fancy arguments. It’s a difficult topic that takes study, like any difficult topic.

I’m massively impressed by Sumption’s legal career. And his historical work is really impressive as well. No one doubts his intelligence. But the concern is with the view that if you have authority on matters of law, you therefore have carte blanche authority to speak about any matter. Would you go to Sumption with your medical problem? I wouldn’t. And I’d sooner talk to a Professor of Philosophy about issues of the value of life/ medical resource distribution for the same reason.

We’d condemn a non-lawyer for confidently asserting a view on promissory estoppel, so why don’t we condemn a non-ethicist for confidently asserting a view on the value of life, and issues on distributive justice. People devote their life to thinking and writing about this stuff, they probably have more authority on the topic. I’ll leave it there.

(7)(54)

anon

Most of humanities academia is either wordy common sense or wordy nonsense so no I’m not going to trust someone’s opinion just because they studied a degree that gave them the vocabulary to make ethical arguments.

Indeed (to make one such wordy argument), you contradict yourself by suggesting that ethics are objective. That suggests that an understanding of morality is ingrained into everyone, therefore everyone has the right to discuss moral questions. Not just so-called “ethicists”.

It’s like arguing that only professional politicians should have authority in political debates.

Old Guy

A perfectly reasonable message gets 31 downvotes in the space of a couple of hours and zero upvotes. Legal Cheek mods need to work on the spamming issue, because it is becoming a joke. Same happened to my comment below and the sensible first reply to my comment.

Anon

Have you studied ethics? If not you’re proving my point. ‘Doing a Sumption’ we’ll call it. If the matter were that simple then intelligent people wouldn’t devote academic careers to the topic. But why read all that? That would be hard work. I don’t think we’re going to solve that millenia old debate on a legal news forum.

(1)(28)

Anon

There’s no sophistication to his arguments. It rests on a crude utilitarianism that first year undergraduates come to their first year of ethics classes with – ‘give things to the healthiest/ most productive people, because they will live longer’.

If you do a bit of research there’s a real subtlety to the complex debates around distributive justice and healthcare. There’s a big academic and policy literature on it, and sophisticated positions have been developed that successfully navigate difficult ethical and policy dilemmas around resource distribution. ‘Not just – give things to young healthy people. Their lives are the most valuable. Debate over.’

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-distributive/

For those genuinely interested in the complexity of these debates, there’s a resource. You’ll see that crude utilitarianism of the Sumption form isn’t a particularly popular position.

Luckily, policy makers do engage with the research, and develop good policy through doing so. But my question remains – why not get ethicists and policy makers on as experts on these matters? Rather than a retired Supreme Court judge? The answer, of course, is because he’s said some divisive things recently that will irritate people and get viewings.

Sumption is entitled to his view, we all are. But we have to decide whose view we attach weight to, and expertise is a sensible criteria.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Law and medicine are almost entirely objective (if not a bit ambiguous in places).

Ethics is subjective by its very nature.”

You’re clearly clueless. A woolly-headed undergrad offering no thoughts of any substance.

GET BACK TO REDDIT.

(12)(6)

Libeturd Leftie

What are you on about? Both are highly subjective, thus the adversarial system for law though no denying parts of it is objective. The same goes for medicine

(1)(7)

Anon

Are you saying that Lord Sumption’s view is of less value than your view?

(11)(0)

Old Guy

This is why super smart people don’t dominate as much as one would think they could, due to low EQ. It only takes one significant misstep for a career to sink without a trace, or a misread of a simple hello from the young trainee. All the young nerds coming out with statements in support of Sumption on Legal Cheek and Roll on Friday are missing the point. The problem is the term ‘value’ and how one defines and applies that term in this context. To say someone’s life is less valuable than another needs significant explanation. From which perspective? How do you determine value? Is it contributions made as an indication of contributions to be made or, as many people here are simply stating, is it simply length of time left? Does it matter if you have dependents or are completely alone in this world? Also those proposing lifting lockdowns are actually suggesting an economic value on life i.e. a young person’s economic future should be prioritised over a few more months a cancer patient will have with a loved one.

Doctors do not make determinations of the value of people’s lives in giving treatment, and the idiots on here who think that are teenagers who have read too much Kafka. Doctors, in extreme situations, give treatment based on who has the best chance of survival. Who will respond best to the treatment. It isn’t the value of the person’s life they are making a judgment on.

(36)(64)

SC

Spot on. Making a technically arguable point about value just makes Sumption and his supporters come across as incredibly unsympathetic and reducing life to numbers on a spreadsheet. Away from the merits of arguments about lockdown it’s definitely true that people that are willing to let hundreds of thousands die and the NHS collapse so grad prospects are better come across mildly psychopathic

(12)(40)

Anon

You are attacking a straw man. Sumption was, and has been, quite clear that much of the case against lockdown stems from the fact that ordinary, regular human interaction is the very thing that makes life valuable in the first place. Moreover, its also quite clear that economic arguments against lockdown are not meant to suggest that the economy > lives. Rather, they are based on the idea that a ruined economy ruins the lives of *everyone*, especially in emotional, social and familial terms.

(39)(1)

Jennifer hughes

Isn’t it just a pity then that he argues for ‘freedom’ of interaction as a basic human need (but not for all mind you, the disposables can stay at home and rot), but then that ‘freedom’ will bring about the very situation which would demand possible selectivity of treatment. And of course life isn’t black and white is it. We would be deciding between this 35 year old and that 35 year old in the end. The man is simply foolish and irrational. His views not worth a jot

(3)(37)

Anon

I’d argue that doctors should take value of life in to account though… probably selfishly given I have a parent on the transplant list.

As an example, if an organ becomes available should it go to a single mother with school age dependents, or should it go to someone 70-80+? Same principle for the vaccination roll out, in my view.

Going off on a tangent slightly but highlights how it would make more sense to consider value of life, especially given how badly this is set to impact future generations (with poverty set to worsen for those in lower-socio economic backgrounds for at least the next 50 years, due to lessened education etc.)

(13)(1)

Philo

What if the single mother is on benefits and has been a ‘drain'(horrible word) on the State, and has two kids who are both felons and in/out of prison, and members of gangs? What if the 70 year old was Stephen Hawking with one more great human advancement in him a 5 more years of teaching and phd supervision left in him for some of the most brilliant and motivated students on earth? What happens then?

(9)(0)

Anon

I’d always choose a mother with school aged children over someone that’s pension age. It is never the children’s fault. You’re right though, it is subjective.

(1)(15)

Clive

I keep seeing this question in various forms, but it doesnt apply. The debate here; the choice, if there is one, is between (a) life of an older person and (b) a younger person not going out / socialising for several months. It is not a QALYS exercise about allocation of resources for treatment that extends life threatened by premature death.

(1)(14)

Libeturd Leftie

This!!

(0)(5)

Calm down dear

This!.. is not reddit..

(4)(0)

anon

Lord Sumption made an abrupt and poorly thought-out remark so the ‘impartial’ MSM decide to exploit this to discredit all lockdown criticisers as nasty. Why can’t they admit that they’re propaganda outlets these days?

(18)(6)

Reel it in

You think the Daily Mail of all places is a lockdown supporting publication?

(2)(1)

Lockdown skeptics are anarcho-capitalists

“If Miss James has misinterpreted that then I can only apologise to her“

Ah yes the ‘sorry you misheard me’ apology. So heartfelt. See also: sorry you feel that way, sorry *if* I caused offence, and one for the government of late: sorry you died.

(8)(16)

Archibald Pomp O'City

” one for the government of late: sorry you died.”

When has anybody in government ever said that?

(8)(1)

The Ethicist

If those with less life left are not as valuable, surely unborn life should be the most valuable of all?

(4)(14)

Anon

Such a shame they did not apply QALY weighting to the Brexit referendum and elections generally.

(2)(7)

Anon

Human rights barrister uses the word “problematic” to describe something that offends him on twitter… life really does imitate art.

(8)(0)

LSE

There is a churlish sense of entitlement that plagues the comments on Twitter.

We do not live, nor will we ever live, in a perfect world. Every time the State intervenes in the natural flow of things, the British public hold the weight of these new burdens. COVID is a particularly gross example of this. Any sense of a “new paradigm” or “progressive rights” (HRA et al) in academic legal debate is permitted only by the financial success of the Big Bang; attaching the Exchequer to the success of international growth. Previous attempts at this scale of social engineering were catastrophic in the 1970s because we were limited by our predominantly domestic economy – and led to the so-called “evils” of Thatcher.

Today’s lawyers, academics and economists alike praise each other’s work in pressing for greater rights and State intervention without realizing the enormous cost these have on those most productive. The best way to let people live better lives is to allow society to take its own course – we all do our best, and science does the rest. Sumption is saying a simple, and logical truth about the situation. On a fiscal, emotional and functional level, COVID is breaking down society.

But realism is the new ‘enemy of the people’. And that goes for both sides of the political spectrum.

(16)(0)

Batman 🙃

Lord sumption is completely right 👍 we should be making our own choices of risk, it’s not the people of this countries fault our health service capacity does not fit the size of population, England 2.5 beds per 1000 people, Germany 8 beds per 1000 people, Belarus 11 beds per 1000 people, as you can see we are lagging behind and have been for decades, also some of these so called laws are not laws there only guidance 🤨 police are fining people unlawfully you can’t enforce guidance we are being taken for a ride….🙄

(24)(4)

Lockdown skeptics are still anarcho-capitalists

I can’t believe I still have to make this point after almost 100k deaths. If you ‘make your own choice of risk’ about this virus, you directly and indirectly increase risk of others. Your decision not to wear a mask increases the risk of that essential worker on the train catching the virus from you. Your decision to carry on as normal increases demand on the services industry which forces workers in that industry to face risks they don’t want to take.

It’s a nonsense argument to say that you can just choose to take your own risk.

(4)(6)

Truth hurts

If all lives are equally deserving of protection, because all lives are of equivalent value, then why not vaccinate at random?

(18)(2)

Jennifer Hughes

The sad truth is that this man, so lauded by the ignorant, in thrall to his ‘education’, his titles and handles, his sheer privilege, is fundamentally irrational. So much for the ‘great legal mind’. He wishes the masses to run riot in the name of ‘freedom’, and the disposables to just bugger off and stay at home. Does he not understand that this would cause an inferno of infection which would exacerbate the situation well beyond our current state of chaos, and actually give rise to the possible selectivity of treatment he advocates. He also doesn’t know the difference between ‘infer’ and ‘imply’. Not such a great mind after all. In fact quite possibly with early dementia.

(5)(46)

Anon

There is a real lack of argument in comments like these. A tell one is masking this fact is the use of emotive words and phrases such as “disposables”, “run riot” and “inferno”.

I think he realises perfectly well that the freedom he advocates would exacerbate the health situation. It just so happens he thinks that is a price worth paying, albeit an incredibly high and tragic one. There is scope for reasonable disagreement here. The assumption that the serious effects of the pandemic entail only one possible course of action is misguided. The notion that just because an alternative course of action might worsen the health impacts of the pandemic, it is therefore not worth listening to is bizarre refusal to ignore the reality of tragic dilemmas. Neither option is good. People disagree about which is worse, that is all.

There is also a bizarre downplaying of the importance of “freedom” (as you put it) amongst those who criticise Sumption, as if it is just some plaything of right-wing libertarians and not something essential for our ability to lead meaningful lives and to any functioning society.

(32)(3)

Anon

I don’t think anyone who argues, when it’s boiled down, that people should die or hide away so I can continue my life as normal deserves to be listened to.

No one is going to argue that freedom isn’t important, but, if your freedom comes at a cost to someone’s life or wellbeing and you can’t be trusted to protect those people when exercising it then that freedom is not deserved.

I completely agree with you regarding certain freedoms being necessary in order for all of us to lead meaningful lives, however, how would you propose that the 30 something’ with asthma, diabetes etc live a meaningful life while locked in their flat because some people within our society couldn’t muster any sense of collective responsibility for what is a relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things?

(3)(16)

Anonymous

So “anon”, without the courage to post your name, but there it is. When faced with a terrible dilemma, one where the choice was between keeping people restricted from ‘freedoms’ (this is the core of Sumption’s argument -lack of freedom from government restrictions to interact in the normal way) and ever rising deaths from a potentially deadly disease which clearly just doesn’t just affect those he would have ‘hide away’ (for how long I wonder, and to what cost, given how much he values ‘human interaction’, or is that only allowed for the ‘young’ and ‘less vulnerable’’?) and where the boundaries between these people and those who would be allowed to be ‘free’, are permeable, for infinite reasons, what would you do? We are not a politically restricted nation, we value choice, but this is an emergency. We have no hope of ‘track and trace’ for all the reasons we know about, hospitals are clearly overwhelmed. Lockdown is a gross and blunt tool, but I simply ask,what alternative would you propose? And why? And what do you think might be the consequences? In your own time

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Another Anon

There is too many anons in this conversation

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Santa Claus

Quite simply, locking down the entire population is worse than locking down a portion of it, even if that portion is large. This idea that lockdown sceptics would be indefensibly “locking-in” 30-somethings with asthma misses a rather obvious fact: they are already locked in, along with the rest of us.

An alternative approach would be to focus our resources on protecting the vulnerable and supporting the NHS. No one would be forced to isolate, but support should be there for those who choose to or need to. So, at the permeable edges, the only boundary would be what each person chooses to do. I am curious as to why you suggest vulnerable populations would have to isolate for longer on a non-lockdown approach. The length of time for isolation should be the same as it is now; specifically, until the vaccine rollout has become effective.

This alternative may indeed have worse health outcomes than lockdown. That fact, however, is not a conclusive argument against such an alternative, no matter how much you might think it is. We consistently adopt policies and laws which we know will kill people and, what is more, we often adopt them even when there are safer alternatives.

(37)(2)

Anon and on and on

Dear Santa

I think the obvious fact you are missing is that the 30 something with asthma will have to be locked in a lot longer if the rest of us go back to normal life. Not forgetting the fact that with each transmission we run the risk of new mor virulent strains which are vaccine resistant, increase viral load etc.

I think the problem that everyone is missing is that the vaccine isn’t going to stop restrictions being necessary until we have either a vaccine which stops transmission (which as far as we know we haven’t yet) or we get to point where there the virus runs out of hosts because everyone is eliminating close contact with others and putting others before themselves.

I’m not sure your last point is quite the killer blow you think it is as it essentially boils down to “we do other awful things so why not do another one”. Not the best position to argue from.

We are where we are with this virus, we now know based on evidence from around the world that if the government had tackled this fast and hard early on we would be in a much better place both financially and health wise. Arguing that we get even looser with restrictions than we have been is at best reckless.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Come on Jen, you’re being silly. You keep saying Sumption is irrational, even though one of his brain cells could do your entire thinking for you. Repeating your sixth-form arguments doesn’t make them more persuasive.

And I promise you he knows the difference between infer and imply, so you ain’t got him there.

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Father Thames

You have to remember that people like Sumption have spent their entire lives in the secure institutions that are the Inns of Court and All Souls and before all that, Eton, where no matter how bonkers you may be, your brilliance renders you acceptable. Cast him adrift with the hoi polloi with whom he has absolutely nothing in common and to whom he barely relates, and this is what happens. A future day time TV star in the making! Imagine him and someone like Janet Street Porter pairing up for mid-morning telly…. the possibilities are endless.

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Archibald Pomp O'City

Your “bonkers” claim is arguable but you’re right that there’s a major EQ issue behind this.

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DustyWig

An intelligent person should never appear on television. Few do.

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Queue Anon

Did you see GMB the other day?

Piers: “DID YOU SAY OLD PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE LESS VALUABLE?”

Lord Sumption: “No, I said that in the context of policymaking -”

Piers: “DID YOU SAY OLD PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE LESS VALUABLE?”

Lord Sumption: “No”

Piers: “DID YOU SAY OLD PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE LESS VALUABLE?”

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Anon

Piers Moron.

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Santa Claus

Dear Anon and on and on,

Are you seriously suggesting that, if the vaccine works in the sense of stopping most people falling ill, once most vulnerable people are vaccinated, we should still all stay inside? Why? Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent transmission, high levels of transmission should not matter once those who are most vulnerable to the disease are inoculated – some younger, not typically vulnerable people will fall ill but those numbers would be relatively minute. Are you suggesting we prolong lockdown to prevent that outcome as well?

My point was hardly “we do other awful things”. Take speed limits. We could easily reduce them to 10mph to prevent deaths. We do not do so even though most deaths from road accidents are preventable. The decision not to reduce the speed limit is hardly “awful”. We do not reduce speed limits even though the number of lives it might save would be proportionately greater than the number of lives lockdown might save, relative to the degree of interference such restrictions have on our lives.

While full-blown lockdown might be seen as excessive for winter flu deaths, given that it is less deadly and virulent than covid, why would a rule of 6 every winter not be justified? A 10pm curfew? If not, why not? Have we just been behaving abhorrently all these by not doing having such measures in place?

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Anon

Santa

Just to address your first point, do you watch the news?

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Another Anon

Dear Santa

I think that rather depends doesn’t it? The myth that Covid will be with us forever could be simply that, a myth. But it needs people to put others before themselves for a relatively short period of time, something which clearly a lot people have been unable to fathom or are unwilling to consider.

As long as transmission is allowed this virus will pose a high risk, vaccine or not due to the constantly mutating nature of virus’.

We currently have the highest number of covid deaths per capita in the world. That is not the fault of lockdowns, it’s the fault of a government unwilling or unable to act decisively and morons who are unwilling to give up their freedoms for a relatively short period of time in order to protect their neighbours, friends and family.

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Sanford Neighbourhood Watch Alliance

The greater good.

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Anonymous

One small step away from making decisions as to the value and future of all individuals who have passed their 3 score years and ten. How much does Sumption’s pension and healthcare cost the taxpayers and what is his current value to society? I guess that he is just filling in time before the inevitable.

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Anon

Ultimately we are in a global pandemic and nearly 100,000 people have died as a result of this virus. If you are arguing that you should be able to go back to your life as normal during, again, A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, then you are either an idiot or an incredibly selfish human being.

There are legitimate concerns regarding mental health however these can be addressed through the current rules. I also wonder how many of the people raising these concerns have actually reached out to those friends and family who are struggling and how many are using it to justify their position.

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