R. W. Emerson once said, “We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.” Children are a precious, sacred trust deserving of our protection, our nurture and our diligence. Any violation of this trust evokes right and proper anger.
However, despite such a self-evident ethic, in 1999 events of the previous decade forced an inquiry into the desecration of children at the Alder Hey Hospital for Children in Liverpool, England.
Wikipedia states: “In January 2001 the official Alder Hey report was published. A large scale public outcry against the National Health Service resulted when it was revealed that Dutch pathologist Dick van Velzen had systematically ordered the "unethical and illegal stripping of every organ from every child who had had a post-mortem" during his time at the hospital. … The report also revealed that over 104,000 organs, body parts and entire bodies of fetuses and still-born babies were stored in 210 NHS facilities. Additionally 480,600 samples of tissue taken from dead patients were also being held. Later that year the General Medical Council (GMC) ruled that van Velzen should be temporarily banned from practising medicine in the UK.”
The public outrage resulting from the events at Alder Hey culminated in the Human Tissues Act of 2004.
In the wake of the inquiry the Guardian, a UK news publication, reported: “…parents were forced to go through multiple funerals for their dead children as more of their retained organs were discovered.”
Our knowledge of these events, even if gained just this moment, is left to linger in a distant mist. But in light of the fact that van Veltzen served out his banishment from the UK at a maternity hospital in Halifax, NS, the story takes on immediate, personal, and Canadian significance as he continued to work his magic on our soil.
Against this backdrop of tragedy, Paperless is a story, inspired by these events, that raises our awareness of violence to all segments of society perpetrated by those whose greed eagerly takes opportunity to defraud the health care system and, more poignantly, of violence against individual children as their bodies are stripped of organs and dignity – all facilitated by the vulnerabilities inherent in our dependence on modern technology.
Who among us has not faced the necessity of making a choice between one good and another; both good, both moral, both significant? Yet the agony of maintaining integrity in the face of that choice is unavoidable. So it is with the protagonist of this story, Julius Barlow, who must decide between being an advocate of justice for those who cannot speak for themselves and the desperate needs within his own family.
Paperless, speaks to these issues in a fast-paced crime novel set in a children’s hospital in Texas, within the US health care system, providing, at least to the author, some distancing from the appalling facts, distance which seemed, at the time, essential to the completion of the project.