Saturday, February 18, 2006

Utilitarian Medicine in the UK

Wesley J. Smith at Secondhand Smoke writes about healthcare rationing in the UK,

The case in question involves a woman who has a type of breast cancer that is susceptible to treatment by a drug called Herceptin. The drug is expensive and the patient, Ann Marie Rogers, was denied access to it by the NHS—not because of efficacy concerns, but apparently based on cost. (Only late stage breast cancer patients can have the drug paid for by the NHS even though it also shows great promise in early disease.)

The high court in the UK (the equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court)approved this decision. As Mr. Smith notes, should the UK legalize assisted suicide and Marie Rogers becomes depressed about her circumstances, there would be no problem with her obtaining the drugs to kill herself. That is, after all, the cheaper course. This is exactly what happens in Oregon--which rations some treatments for Medicaid patients.

I have heard health providers argue for a single payor system such as exists in the UK and Canada. Contemplate this part of the story linked by Wesley J. Smith,

Despite health officials' contention that decisions about treatment are based solely on clinical effectiveness, critics contend that with drugs growing ever more expensive, cost has become an increasingly important factor. They also say patients are at the mercy of the so-called postcode lottery, in which treatments are available in some postal zones but not others

So, care is rationed on the basis of money and postal zone? Who's to say that someday it couldn't be rationed on the basis of political or religious affiliation?