Saving money by not treating the sick

January 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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Alzheimer’s disease can be expensive. Many analysts focus on the extra costs brought on by old people not dying according to schedule. I don’t plan to die on schedule myself. Millions of us uncooperative people will be living long enough to display the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (though Alzheimer’s may take years to develop) and that has major implications for public health.

So how can a country save on health costs? As Mike the Actuary notes, in a recent survey of 870 British physicians,

Ninety-four per cent said that an alcoholic who refused to stop drinking should not be allowed a liver transplant..

Okay, so they’re saying that the British National Health Service shouldn’t have unlimited responsibility for health problems that people bring on themselves. I can understand that.

Smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations, according to doctors, with most saying the health service cannot afford to provide free care to everyone.

Wait, did they say the elderly? That’s not exactly a problem that people bring on themselves. So who can the British Health Service afford to serve? American Pundit answers, “Only healthy people, apparently. Which sounds kind of… pointless.”

Many of these doctors echo what others have said in health debates. As summarized in Creative Minority Report:

Among the survey of 870 family and hospital doctors, one in three said that elderly patients should not be given free treatment if it were unlikely to do them good for long. Half thought that smokers should be denied a heart bypass, while a quarter believed that the obese should be denied hip replacements.

But the British medical establishment is not in full agreement about this.

Responding to the survey’s findings on the treatment of the elderly, Dr Calland, of the BMA, said: “If a patient of 90 needs a hip operation they should get one. Yes, they might peg out any time, but it’s not our job to play God.

I’m not a great fan of the health system, socialized or otherwise. Some of it is determined by attorneys, some of it treats symptoms by causing more symptoms. But I’m no fan of choosing whom to abandon. It’s been done before, in Nazi Germany and sometimes in the Arctic.

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