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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

The Causes of NHS Death Squad Medicine



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The NHS is melting down. As I have repeated posted about here, the Liverpool Care Pathway–intended to prevent patients from dying in agony–became instead a door to imposed back door euthanasia. So much easier to put patients into a coma and dehydrate them than provide individualized care.

NHS hospitals have so mistreated patients that thousands died who would have lived with proper care. Mothers have given birth in hallways. Emergency patients have been kept in ambulances for hours to ensure that ER rooms met their waiting time bureaucratic mandates. Etc., beyond etc. What a mess.

The magnificent Melanie Philips hits the nail about this in her latest column, “NHS has a Hole Where Its Heart Should Be:”

Harsh as this may sound, it is surely hard not to conclude that — whether through the LCP abuses or shocking standards of care — one way or another the NHS has turned into something akin to a national death service for those who are too vulnerable to resist.
This obscene brutalisation of attitudes cannot be addressed by tinkering with procedures, by yet more Whitehall directives, nor even by the firing of culpable staff (not that that last outcome ever seems to happen). We are simply facing nothing less than a moral breakdown: a fundamental collapse of decency, compassion and simple kindness.

The question is why the “collapse,” why the most caring profession can be transformed into its most callous, why as an American hospital psychologist friend told me recently, she sees a very real threat of “death squad medicine.”

There is much to consider. I have railed about how centralized control deprofessionalizes. And that is clearly true. When doctors and staffers practice to the memo, patients that don’t fit into the mold can seem a bother. This bureaucratic sclerosis is coming to the USA now thanks to Obamacare.

But I think more is involved. When preventing any and all suffering becomes the prime directive, eliminating suffering too easily morphs into eliminating the sufferer. And the very concept of ”suffering” itself becomes elastic, to the point that family suffering becomes germane and the patient is put out of their misery–and given the cost of care–ours.

At an even deeper level, the increasing inhumanity we see comes from rejecting human exceptionalism, and its corollary, the sanctity/equality of human life. If being human is morally irrelevant, when very prominent thinkers seriously assert that some human beings aren’t human (persons) anymore (or yet), and that their suffering and/or dependency is a pointless drag, that life without a “meaningful recovery” not worth living–it becomes all too easy to think that killing is the best option and that providing individualized care to certain classes of people is not worth our time or treasure.

The crisis in health care isn’t a cause, but a symptom.



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