A sporting force for good amid matters of life and death

From: Brian Sheridan, Redmires Road, Sheffield.

AS old-age beckons, I was very sad to read nonagenarian Ken Hartford’s view of the approach to death (Yorkshire Post, Aug 8).

Compared with Mr Hartford, who grew up in an orphanage and served in the Second World War, I have had a charmed life, so I am not well-placed to understand his feelings which seem close to despair. However, I was so affected that I am no longer able to refrain from comment.

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The hatred of competition which has clearly tormented him throughout his life seems to me to have been an unnecessary burden. He cites the Olympic Games as a malign vehicle for demonstrating one person’s physical superiority over another.

I wondered if he found chess and bridge acceptable since they were not a physical challenge but we’ll let that go by.

I have not been a fan of the Olympics since they were hijacked by nationalists who sought to demonstrate the superiority of one country over another. The dominance of female East German athletes in the 1980s was an illusion: they were fed illegal substances, some without their knowledge.

Moreover, the cynicism endemic in football does show human nature in an unfavourable light. Yet this is not the fault of sport per se. To take part in sporting competition with someone is an implicit indication of mutual acceptance.

Even professional sport is ultimately about friendship. We do not play international matches with countries with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. We do not play against nations whose regime we abhor, as South Africa found out during apartheid.

Sport is overwhelmingly a force for good. Look at the embrace between Nadal and Djokovic after a tennis match, What you will see is mutual respect.

Will any cricket fan forget Andrew Flintoff consoling defeated Aussie Brett Lee after that Test Match in the 2005 Ashes? None of this, of course, will alter Mr Hartford’s jaundiced view of competitive sport.

I have no wish to belittle Mr Hartford’s feelings at this stage of his life but I do believe he perceives an evil which does not exist.

From: Maureen Hunt, Woolley, near Wakefield.

SINCE I saw a man named Martin lying in a hospital bed on the BBC news recently, I had not been able to get him out of my mind.

Three years ago, when he was only 43, Martin suffered a massive stroke since when he has been totally paralysed with the exception of his eyes and slight movements of his head.

He does however still feel bodily pain. He is suffering from “locked in syndrome”.

In French is its described more graphically as “maladie de l’emmurée vivante”, which is translated as “walled in alive disease.” It sounds to me like a living death, both terrifying and horrific.

Martin is able to stare at certain letters on an incredible computer, which translates the eye movements into words, then spoken by a digitised voice. That is the only way Martin can communicate. He wishes to be allowed to die and is taking his case to the High Court. He has prepared a statement describing his daily life as “undignified, distressing and intolerable.” Having no control whatsoever over his life, he wants to be able to control the time and manner of his death.

Presumably, Martin is being fed intravenously in order for him to continue to exist. I believe this is a genuine violation of his human rights.

It is written in the Bible that there is “a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verse 2).

It seems that this is something we have forgotten and that life must be preserved at all costs, whatever that life may be. There is nothing to fear from death but today we are afraid of the manner and duration of our dying. May I wish Martin god speed in his quest.