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The economics of death.

April 28, 2018

Little Alfie Evans lost his fight to live last Friday, to a disease or condition we still don’t have positively identified.

Described as having a “degenerative brain condition”, Britain’s National Health Service decreed that because he was terminal, he should be removed from life support systems, assuming that he would die within minutes of being disconnected.

When he didn’t, the government-run health care system then denied him nourishment for the rest of the week.

So did the brain condition kill him, or did he die from starvation?

So far we haven’t heard whether he will be autopsied to determine the exact nature of the disease that  doctors say would have killed him anyway.

What we do know is that  the parents were denied not only the right to decide about the time and manner of Alfie’s death, but even the right to have him examined by other professionals.

There are many people who say we spend far too much on health care for people who will never get better, particularly the elderly and the very young, like preemies born so far ahead of time that they only reach term after receiving tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical care.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight perhaps that’s true, but should it be a government’s right to make that decision?

Alfie’s parents, like little Charlie Gard’s before them, had many professionals who offered care and ‘transportation at no charge, so Britain’s taxpayers could have been off the hook for the cost a lot sooner than they were.

Many  terminally ill adults choose to invoke a DNR order, and some even opt for suicide, sometimes assisted and sometimes by their own hand.  That’s their choice as adults, and they should have the right to make it.

In other cases family members choose to stop care, usually because at some time or the other the patient has indicated that is their wish or because even with maximum treatment, the patient is in obvious pain.

In the case of children however, only the child’s legal guardians, who are usually the parents, should be able to decide.

Britain’s National Health Service removes that right from the parents and relatives and places it in the hands of the government.

Somehow,  that seems less about compassion, and more about the bottom line.

Whatever your personal feelings about euthanasia or suicide, do you really think some politician or insurance company bean counter should hold that kind of power over your very life?

The next time you hear someone advocate for national health care, remember Alfie.


From → op-ed

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