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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

NHS Age Discrimination A Warning About Obamacare



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The United Kingdom’s National Health Service rations care and, evidence shows, discriminates against the elderly. Now, the Royal College of Surgeons finds that elderly patients are being denied life-saving surgery based on age rather than fitness. From the Telegraph story:

The comprehensive new study, ‘Access all Ages: Assessing the impact of age on access to surgical treatment’, published by Age UK, The Royal College of Surgeons and MHP Health Mandate, found older people are having disproportionate restrictions imposed on their care. A new ban on age discrimination in the NHS came into effect this month meaning there is a now a legal basis for challenging the rationing of healthcare solely on the basis of age.

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “This isn’t about surgeons slamming the theatre door on older people. “In fact it is alarming to think that the treatment a patient receives may be influenced by their age. There are multiple factors that affect treatment decisions and often valid explanations as to why older people either opt out of surgery – or are recommended non-surgical treatment alternatives. The key is that it is a decision based on the patient rather than how old they are that matters.” In some cases a patient may not even be referred for surgery because of perceptions that they are too old, or the symptoms of their disease are taken as part of ageing and so when they are diagnosed it is too advanced for surgery.

This is the consequence of centralized health care, global budgets, and top-down management. And it is coming here if Obamacare survives.

Consider the number of Obama Administration health officials and advisers who have looked to NHS-style centralized, bureaucratized control as the model for the US.

  • Tom Daschle wanted a rationing board like the NHS has. But for tax problems, he would be HHS Secretary today and was a major adviser on Obamacare.
  • Donald Berwick, who was the head of Medicare explicitly applauded the NHS and rationing before coming to government. His views were so explicit, the Democrat Senate never held a hearing on his nomination and the president used a recess appointment to get him into the job so he wouldn’t have to answer politically embarrassing questions.
  • Ezekiel Emanuel, formerly the head bioethicist at the NHS, also was a rationing supporter based on quality of life.
  • President Obama once telling a woman at a town hall meeting that rather than treat an elderly woman for her disease, she should perhaps instead be given pain pills, because we have to save money.

This is what centralized health care planning does. In such a technocratic system, we cease to be individual patients and are instead reduced to merely being a categorical statistical assumption. When that happens, the vulnerable and politically unconnected become the first victims.



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