Created 60 years ago as a cornerstone of the British welfare state, the National Health Service is devoted to the principle of free medical care for everyone. But recently it has been wrestling with a problem its founders never anticipated: how to handle patients with complex illnesses who want to pay for parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free from the health service.
One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.
By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor. “He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.
“I said, ‘Where does that leave me?’ He said, ‘If you pay for Avastin, you’ll have to pay for everything’ ” — in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.
Better to let her cancer spread than to let her buy the drugs she needs to extend her life. In an effort to make everyone equal Mrs. Hirst has to pay the price, with her own health. She could not really afford the drugs but had raised about one sixth of the money and was willing to sell her home for the rest. What has happened to her you ask:
But in a final irony, Mrs. Hirst was told early this month that her cancer had spread and her condition had deteriorated so much she could have the Avastin after all — paid for by the health service. In other words, a system that forbade her to buy the medicine earlier was now saying that she was so sick she could have it at public expense.
Mrs. Hirst is pleased, but only up to a point. Avastin is not a cure, but a way to extend her life, perhaps only by several months, and she has missed valuable time. “It may be too bloody late,” she said.
“I’m a person who left school at 15 and I’ve worked all my life and I’ve paid into the system, and I’m not going to live long enough to get my old-age pension from this government,” she added.
She also knows that the drug can have grave side effects. “I have campaigned for this drug, and if it goes wrong and kills me, c’est la vie,” she said. But, she said, speaking of the government: “If the drug doesn’t have a fair chance because the cancer has advanced so much, then they should be raked over the coals for it.”
This is one story about government controlled health care out of many. This is the kind of thing that I am afraid we are going to hear about in the near future in the good old USA. Do you really want the same people that are destroying Social Security, Medicare and everything else they control in charge of what treatment you get. I think these decisions should be made by my doctor and myself.
H/T: Red State