Truth About Life And Death, The

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Health Check2014062520140626 (WS)
20140629 (WS)

Providing infertility treatment at a fraction of the cost.

Claudia Hammond exposes a hidden problem which occurs before life has even begun. Nosiphiwo was ostracised by her husband’s family in South Africa after years of trying, in vain, for a baby. Stories like Nosiphiwo’s, of social stigma and even physical abuse and destitution, are common in low-income countries, where most of the millions of infertile women in the world reside. While programmes tackle the causes of infertility, such as preventing and treating sexually transmitted infections, calls to provide affordable fertility services have been overlooked by agencies which tend to focus on the problem of over population.

Claudia visits Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town where infertility treatment is being offered at a fraction of the cost of private clinics. Programme Director, Dr Matsaseng, is pioneering differing ways to keep costs down, from using cheaper medications in smaller amounts, to taking on the jobs of several staff himself, texting and supporting patients through each stage of their cycle to coordinate their treatments.

The next step is to find a way to take low-cost infertility treatment to rural areas. But this requires a laboratory. ‘The Walking Egg Project’, a shoe-box sized portable laboratory for performing IVF, could provide the answer. By the start of 2014, sixteen babies had been born using the system and the team in South Africa now hope to trial it at the hospital.

02Health Check2014070220140703 (WS)
20140706 (WS)

Claudia Hammond investigates how to save the lives of premature babies

The first 24 hours are the most crucial in their survival for the 15 million premature babies born every year. And the stark truth is that survival depends on where in the world a baby is born.

Professor Joy Lawn is in the studio with Claudia and Suhail Haleem reports from Goa, where simple measures are producing dramatic results. And, we hear from professor Neil Marlow about the study which has followed babies born at less than 26 weeks for 19 years, to find out the long term effects on the lives of very premature babies.

(Photo: A baby holds an adult's finger, Credit: Simon Fraser/Science Photo Library)

03Health Check2014070920140710 (WS)
20140713 (WS)

Why babies' laughter is key to how their minds work

Tiny babies are, from birth, active learners. They don’t wait for the world to come to them. Claudia Hammond explores the very latest research about what influences the developing mind of the new born infant.

Dr Caspar Addyman from the Babylab at Birkbeck, University of London, describes the biggest ever internet survey of babies’ laughter, which concludes that babies really do get the joke.

Professor Celeste Kidd and researchers from the University of Rochester in the US reveal that just like the fairytale, Goldilocks, babies will focus their attention on things that are “just right”. As Goldilocks chose the porridge, the chair and the bed that suited her perfectly, the inquisitive infant will choose exactly the right level of stimulation and interest - too complicated, and they look away, too simple and they lose interest.

During the first year of life, the development of both the brain and the rest of the nervous system is hugely affected by babies’ nourishment - a sobering fact when you consider that 165 million children are undernourished, according to Unicef. This shortage of the right nutrients can have lifelong effects and Dr Sophie Moore from the UK’s Medical Research Council’s International Nutrition Group reports form The Gambia, from the MRC field station in Keneba. Sophie and Dr Sarah Lloyd Fox from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck describe the work being done to find early warning systems to raise the alarm before poor nutrition causes stunting and affects brain development.

And, one of the world’s leading authorities on infant communication, emeritus professor of Child Psychology and Psychobiology at the University of Edinburgh, Colwyn Trevarthen, talks to Claudia about the importance of talking to babies, and the musicality in those communications.

Picture: Baby laughing, Credit: BBC

What influences the mind of a tiny newborn baby and do infants really get the joke?

Professor Celeste Kidd and researchers from the University of Rochester in the USA reveal that just like the fairytale, Goldilocks, babies will focus their attention on things that are “just right”. As Goldilocks chose the porridge, the chair and the bed that suited her perfectly, the inquisitive infant will choose exactly the right level of stimulation and interest: too complicated, and they look away, too simple and they lose interest.

During the first year of life, the development of both the brain and the rest of the nervous system is hugely affected by babies’ nourishment: a sobering fact when you consider that 165 million children are, according to UNICEF, undernourished. This shortage of the right nutrients can have lifelong effects and Dr Sophie Moore from the UK’s Medical Research Council’s International Nutrition Group reports form The Gambia, from the MRC field station in Keneba. Sophie and Dr Sarah Lloyd Fox from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck describe the work being done to find early warning systems to raise the alarm before poor nutrition causes stunting and affects brain development.

One of the world’s leading authorities on infant communication, emeritus Professor of Child Psychology and Psychobiology at the University of Edinburgh, Colwyn Trevarthen, talks to Claudia about the importance of talking to babies, and the musicality in those communications.

04Health Check2014071620140717 (WS)
20140720 (WS)

India’s One Million Deaths project study's the dead to help the living

Over half the world’s deaths go unrecorded, but without knowing what kills us countries can’t plan their health services properly. Suhail Haleem reports on India’s One Million Deaths Study, since 1998, the study has monitored nearly 14 million people in 2.4 million nationally representative households in India. Deaths that occur in these households are assigned a probable cause via a verbal autopsy which is where field workers visit families who have lost a loved one and ask them about the symptoms and lifestyle habits of the deceased. The results are then analysed by doctors to assess the likely cause of death. The study has generated both surprising and controversial results that have important implications for healthcare in India. The Million Deaths team say they study the dead to help the living.

Recording deaths has a long history and Claudia Hammond visits an exhibition at the Royal Society in London, where The Bills of Mortality recorded the grisly deaths of plague victims in 17th Century England

05Health Check2014092420140928 (WS)

Huge advances in technology now mean people can be kept alive longer, blurring the boundary between life and death. This intensifies the dilemmas for doctors, patients and their families. Different cultures and religions have reacted in a variety of ways - from preserving life at all costs, to euthanasia, with many countries sitting somewhere in between.

Claudia visits Jerusalem in Israel to explore how the religions there, shaped over many centuries, have adapted to medical advances at the end of life. She discovers how Ariel Sharon’s final years, ventilated to keep him alive, illustrate the pivotal role religion plays.

Jewish law forbids any act which could hasten a person’s death. So, unlike many countries around the world, Israeli law prohibits the withdrawal of life support, such as a ventilator, from patients who are dying. But the law also prevents ventilators from being withdrawn from patients who are not dying, who have been saved by modern medicine yet depend on a ventilator to breathe.

With unique access, Claudia visits Herzog hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where patients lie in beds, kept alive on ventilators. Many are unconscious but some are aware of their surroundings. She hears from the families of patients, some who have been there for many years.

It is only lawful to turn a ventilator off in Israel when a patient is confirmed dead. Yet fierce religious debate continues about how death should be actually defined. While ‘brain stem death’ criteria are usually used, there are sections of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community who argue that the final heart beat is the critical moment, with huge implications for end of life care.

(Photo credit: By kind permission of Herzog Hospital)

05Health Check2014092420140928 (WS)

The pivotal role religion plays in decisions about death and dying in Israel

05Health Check2014092420140928 (WS)

The pivotal role religion plays in decisions about death and dying in Israel

05Health Check2014092420140925 (WS)

The pivotal role religion plays in decisions about death and dying in Israel

05Health Check2014092420140925 (WS)

The pivotal role religion plays in decisions about death and dying in Israel

05Health Check2014092420140925 (WS)

The pivotal role religion plays in decisions about death and dying in Israel

05Health Check20140924

Huge advances in technology now mean people can be kept alive longer, blurring the boundary between life and death. This intensifies the dilemmas for doctors, patients and their families. Different cultures and religions have reacted in a variety of ways - from preserving life at all costs, to euthanasia, with many countries sitting somewhere in between.

Claudia visits Jerusalem in Israel to explore how the religions there, shaped over many centuries, have adapted to medical advances at the end of life. She discovers how Ariel Sharon’s final years, ventilated to keep him alive, illustrate the pivotal role religion plays.

Jewish law forbids any act which could hasten a person’s death. So, unlike many countries around the world, Israeli law prohibits the withdrawal of life support, such as a ventilator, from patients who are dying. But the law also prevents ventilators from being withdrawn from patients who are not dying, who have been saved by modern medicine yet depend on a ventilator to breathe.

With unique access, Claudia visits Herzog hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where patients lie in beds, kept alive on ventilators. Many are unconscious but some are aware of their surroundings. She hears from the families of patients, some who have been there for many years.

It is only lawful to turn a ventilator off in Israel when a patient is confirmed dead. Yet fierce religious debate continues about how death should be actually defined. While ‘brain stem death’ criteria are usually used, there are sections of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community who argue that the final heart beat is the critical moment, with huge implications for end of life care.

(Photo credit: By kind permission of Herzog Hospital)

06Health Check2014100120141005 (WS)

The Cypriots grieving for loved ones still yet to be found

06Health Check2014100120141005 (WS)

For a loved one to die is devastating enough. But to lose those closest to us in war or conflict, and not to know where they are or how they died, compounds the grief and hugely complicates the grieving process. Families can not mourn fully, because they are unable to lay their loved ones to rest.

Claudia Hammond reports from Bosnia Herzegovina, where thousands of people have missing relatives, and from Cyprus, where hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriot families have been waiting 40 and 50 years, for the bodies of their missing to be found. In Cyprus, there is a renewed push by Greek and Turkish Cypriots to find the hundreds still missing after inter-communal fighting in 1963 and 1964, and Turkish forces’ intervention on the island in 1974 following a military coup.

The UN-backed Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus is trying to increase its funding to speed up the process of identifying burial sites, exhuming bodies and identifying the missing before the lives of the waiting relatives themselves come to an end. The CMP has turned for help to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia Herzegovina, the world’s largest specialist DNA laboratory. Exhumed remains are sent to Sarajevo for DNA profiling and the results matched with genetic information collected from the families of the missing.

Following the war in the former Yugoslavia, the ICMP has helped to identify almost three quarters of the 40,000 people missing after that conflict, and they now share this expertise around the world.

The CMP in Cyprus has its own investigators, searching for potential gravesites, as well as scores of forensic anthropologists, painstakingly exhuming remains from mass graves, but the investigative journalist, Sevgul Uludag, is recognised across both communities as key to the process.

For 12 years, Sevgul has worked on a completely voluntary basis, to find the missing. She carries two mobile phones, for Turkish and Greek Cypriots to contact her, in confidence, and she tells Claudia about the death threats she has received to try to stop her work.

Claudia also hears from 69-year-old Maria Georgiadis, who lost her whole family - her mother, her father, her sister and her brother in 1974. None of their bodies have ever been recovered. And from Veli Beidoghlou and his sisters, Sifa and Muge, who were finally able to lay their father to rest after waiting 44 years for his body to be found and returned to them for burial.

Producer: Fiona Hill

Picture Credit: Committee on Missing Persons, Cyprus

06Health Check2014100120141002 (WS)

Bereavement without a body. The Cypriots still waiting for loved ones to be found.

06Health Check20141001

For a loved one to die is devastating enough. But to lose those closest to us in war or conflict, and not to know where they are or how they died, compounds the grief and hugely complicates the grieving process.

Families can’t mourn fully, because they are unable to lay their loved ones to rest.

Claudia Hammond reports from Bosnia Herzegovina, where thousands of people have missing relatives, and from Cyprus, where hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriot families have been waiting forty and fifty years, for the bodies of their missing to be found.

In Cyprus, there’s a renewed push by Greek and Turkish Cypriots to find the hundreds still missing after inter-communal fighting in 1963 and 1964, and Turkish forces’ intervention on the island in 1974 following a military coup.

The UN-backed Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus is trying to increase its funding to speed up the process of identifying burial sites, exhuming bodies and identifying the missing before the lives of the waiting relatives themselves come to an end.

The CMP has turned for help to the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia Herzegovina, the world’s largest specialist DNA laboratory. Exhumed remains are sent to Sarajevo for DNA profiling and the results matched with genetic information collected from the families of the missing.

Following the war in the former Yugoslavia, the ICMP has helped to identify almost three quarters of the 40,000 people missing after that conflict, and they now share this expertise around the world.

The CMP in Cyprus has its own investigators, searching for potential gravesites, as well as scores of forensic anthropologists, painstakingly exhuming remains from mass graves, but the investigative journalist, Sevgul Uludag, is recognised across both communities as key to the process.

For 12 years, Sevgul has worked on a completely voluntary basis, to find the missing. She carries two mobile phones, for Turkish and Greek Cypriots to contact her, in confidence, and she tells Claudia about the death threats she’s received to try to stop her work.

Claudia also hears from 69 year old Maria Georgiadis, who lost her whole family: her mother, her father, her sister and her brother in 1974. None of their bodies have ever been recovered.

And from Veli Beidoghlou and his sisters, Sifa and Muge, who were finally able to lay their father to rest after waiting 44 years for his body to be found and returned to them for burial.