What is society’s responsibility for health care?

Adrian Anthony (A.A.) Gill, a Scots writer, died yesterday, December 10, 2016, at age 62, as he was receiving treatment for lung cancer from the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. 

The system denied him life extending immunotherapy, specifically a drug called “Nivolumab,” AA Gill faces up to his cancerbecause it was too expensive: £60,000 to £100,000 a year for a lung cancer patient. This is four times the cost of chemo. 

Today, The Sunday Times [London] published his final article, “More life with your kids, more life with your friends, more life spent on earth — but only if you pay.” It is poignant, and, I think, must reading for distributists concerned with health care solutions. (The article is free to read, but you must register with The Sunday Times for access.)

Two excerpts:

Everyone standing for whatever political persuasion has to lay a sterilised hand on an A&E* revolving door and swear that the collective cradle-to-crematorium health service will be cherished on their watch. 
*“A&E”: ‘Accident and Emergency’ is the British term for a hospital’s emergency department.

We say [the NHS] is the envy of the world. It isn’t. We say there’s nothing else like it. There is. We say it’s the best in the West. It’s not. We think it’s the cheapest. It isn’t. Either that or we think it’s the most expensive — it’s not that, either. You will live longer in France and Germany, get treated faster and more comfortably in Scandinavia, and everything costs more in America. 

Distributist History: 

The distributist, Hilaire Belloc, did not like the idea of state sponsored social insurance, but saw it enacted shortly after he left parliament in 1910. (The National Insurance Act of 1911  provided health and unemployment insurance to some, but not all, workers.) Belloc feared that it would render people ‘servile’ to the state.

Quo Vadis? (Where are you going?)

What are the limits to health care?   How do politics, economics, faith and technology interact to determine what a society, a family, or a friend owes to the sick?  When is it correct to deny care and who has this authority?

Again, Belloc, who was a founder of the distributist movement, despaired of solutions that involved the state. The distributist principle of subsidiarity would seek solutions at the most local level possible; it would not call for a ‘common modality’ (that is, “one size fits all”.)

Note:  The last sentence of the posting containing Gill’s article reads:
“AA Gill began taking nivolumab after writing this article”
No additional information was offered.

 If you get into the article, you might want to know about these:

“Attlee”: Clement Attlee was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945-1951. The National Health Service Act of 1946 was passed on his watch. It created the current National Health Service. He was both preceded and succeeded in office by Winston Churchill.

Charing Cross Hospital” is a teaching hospital built in 1973. It is located in west London.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.