Advocates of a government takeover of the health care system routinely offer up horror stories of American medicine, and no system yet has found a way around the problem of human imperfection, especially when operating in a system with such distorted incentives–most from ill-considered government policies. Yet the horror stories in nationalized health care systems are manifold and tend to be more intractable since they result from government policy.
For instance, consider the quality of care delivered by hospitals in one region in Great Britain (with a hat-tip to Philip Klein of the American Spectator for finding this story). According to the Daily Telegraph:
Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Healthcare Commission, said the report is a ‘shocking story’ and that there were failures at almost every stage of care of emergency patients. “There is no doubt that patients will have suffered and some of them will have died as a result,” he said.
The investigation of the trust now called the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, found overstretched and poorly trained nurses who turned off equipment because they did not know how to work it, newly qualified doctors left to care for patients recovering from surgery at night, patients left for hours in soiled bedclothes, reception staff expected to judge how seriousness of patients arriving at A&E, patients left without food or drink, others who received the wrong medication or none at all, blood and faeces left on lavatories and floors, and doctors diverted away from seriously ill patients in order to treat minor ones who were in danger of breaching the four hour waiting time target.
When high mortality rates triggered questions, the trust board of directors ‘fobbed off’ investigators by saying the rates were a result of statistical errors but the Healthcare Commission found this was not that case.
The report said there was a ‘reluctance to acknowledge or even consider that the care of patients was poor’.
The trust was more concerned with hitting targets, gaining Foundation Trust status and marketing and had ‘lost sight’ of its responsibilities for patient care, the report said.
Sir Ian said: “The resulting report is a shocking story. Our report tells a story of appalling standards of care and chaotic systems for looking after patients.”
While Britain tends to be near the bottom in terms of health care system in industrialized states, there are plenty of horror stories elsewhere. Socialism doesn’t work, whether in health care or elsewhere. As Investor’s Business Daily reminds us:
The Swedish government system is no better. It also refuses to provide some expensive medication and, inhumanely, refuses to let patients buy the drugs themselves. Why? According to a Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons article, bureaucrats believe doing so “would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.”
Like Canadians, Swedes are subjected to long waits. They also have denial-of-care problems that sometimes lead to death.
A reasonable person would see the record of repeated failures in government-run medicine as evidence that such a system is not sustainable. Yet every central planner thinks he or she — or his or her immediate group — is smart enough to correct the flaws of socialist programs and therefore has the moral authority to force others to participate in his experiments. It is the same thinking that will move a person to say we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
The Obama administration seems determined to waste a lot of money “stimulating” the economy. We can replace money lost. But if the administration succeeds in nationalizing the medical system directly or indirectly, the damage may prove irreversible–and deadly.