By Ethel C. Fenig
While presidential wannabe Senator Bernie Sanders (supposedly an Independent from Vermont but really a socialist/communist who caucuses with and is allowed to run as a Democrat for president), Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also a socialist-communist Democrat-NY) and others rhapsodize about “free” government health care for all, they neglect to mention some harsh realities of such a system that the New York Times (accidentally?) let slip Friday.
U.K. Backs Off Medical Rationing Plan as Coronavirus Rages
LONDON — Denying lifesaving care to conserve public resources is nothing new for Britain’s National Health Service.
In expensive treatments for cancer and other diseases, the health service officially limits what it will spend to postpone a death: 30,000 pounds, or about $37,000, for each year of full “quality” life provided to a patient.
In the case of a pandemic, the public guidance from health officials for more than a decade has been that doctors should prepare to withhold scarce resources from the weakest patients in order to save more of the strong, especially with the use of life-sustaining ventilators.
Yet now that a pandemic has finally arrived, the health authorities this week balked at spelling out exactly how to make those agonizing choices, evidently for fear of a public uproar.
Wait! What? It is more important “to conserve public resources” than “to postpone a death”; a year of “full ‘quality’ life shouldn’t cost more than $37,000”? What defines quality? Does confinement to a wheelchair for an otherwise fairly healthy 75 year old reduce life quality if afflicted by Wuhan coronavirus?
“Everyone matters equally, but this does not mean that everyone is treated the same,” the health department declared in ethical guidance formulated after the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic in 2009.
Oh. As George Orwell wrote over 70 years ago in his satire on Communism, Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Advocates for the aged warn that older but physically healthy patients may suffer unfairly if doctors use age as a stand-in for resilience, and that decision-making may vary from one hospital to another. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity or other health risks might all be counted differently.
Ethicists warn that the poor would probably suffer disproportionately because they are more likely to have pre-existing health problems.
Undoubtedly the almost 56 year old Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, will be treated more equally than other British citizens, public resources be damned, during his (hopefully) short stay in the ICU after he was hospitalized in intensive care for Wuhan coronavirus.
What about the other middle-aged coronavirus sufferers in England? Or older ones? Does the country have enough public resources to avoid extreme medical care rationing? And what about those who need other medical care in the time of a pandemic? Even a month and a half ago British doctors warned:
“We barely coped with a standard winter – which helpfully had an early flu spike, so everything didn’t hit at once – the idea that we can cope with a pandemic is nonsense.”
[One doctor] explained his own hospital plans included cancelling elective operations for things like hip and knee surgeries while taking over theatres and recovery areas to put ventilated patients adding the trust would “drop staffing ratios as low as we dare”.
Paging Senator Sanders, Rep Ocasio-Cortez for answers.