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The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today's winner is British Health Secretary Alan Johnson. He gets the award for the following.

Although the government is reluctant to discuss the issue, hopscotching back and forth between private and public care has long been standard here for those who can afford it. But a few recent cases have exposed fundamental contradictions between policy and practice in the system, and tested its founding philosophy to its very limits.

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.

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Patients "cannot, in one episode of treatment, be treated on the N.H.S. and then allowed, as part of the same episode and the same treatment, to pay money for more drugs," the health secretary, Alan Johnson, told Parliament.

"That way lies the end of the founding principles of the N.H.S.," Mr. Johnson said.

Blogger Betsy sums things up very nicely-

Imagine that. You have a terrible disease and either can afford to buy the extra drugs, but the government thinks it's unfair that you are richer than poorer patients and so will block you from getting the drugs that could save your life. Or maybe you're not really all that rich, but like this poor woman, you're willing to sell your house on the chance that this drug will save your life.
If anyone based on yesterday's Knucklehead thinks I'm in favor of nationalized healthcare, they are basically mistaken. I'm angered by idiotic bureaucracies both in the public and private sector.(The same goes for politicians so far as I'm concerned. I will Knucklehead Republicans and Democrats) If the conduct is outrageous enough, the perpetrator gets a Knucklehead.

British Health Secretary Alan Johnson statement in support of NHS policy towards Debbie Hirst outrages me enough to name him today's Knucklehead of the Day.


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Comments (9)

As expected the safety net ... (Below threshold)

As expected the safety net becomes a snare.

I have always said I would prefer 5 year old life saving medicine that was cutting edge 5 years ago but I could afford today to 20 year old medicine that is affordable for the government.

So many forget that the evil rich who can afford today's cutting edge are funding the development of the medicine I may need tomorrow.

In a country that roundly c... (Below threshold)

In a country that roundly condemns capital punishment, a petty bureaucrat is allowed to condemn a woman to a slow, tortuous death without the benefit of a judge or jury? Makes one wonder what her crime could have been. I'll bet the honorable secretary sees himself as "civilized".

This is exactly why the Don... (Below threshold)

This is exactly why the Donks and their socialist candidates need to be ousted. France and Germany are moving away from such idiotic policies as they continue to fail and the Democrats in the U.S. want to move us into the quagmire. As they bad mouth the pharmaceutical companies, they never speak to who will do the research and development necessary to continue to move health care forward.

While this is an example of... (Below threshold)

While this is an example of what happens when you give away the responsibility to pay for health care to someone other than yourself, I think we should temper our emotions in this particular case. While there are a few studies suggesting that adding Avastin to another drug in metastatic breast cancer improves response, there is no duplicated evidence it improves survival, and there is plenty of evidence it increases toxicity. Which costs extra money to treat. So if this patient wants to go the route of using a controversial treatment (is approved in Europe but recently rejected by the FDA in this situation) I can understand resistance to continuing to pay for her total care.
They still deserve today's award, but the patient who is being driven by emotion (gotta do everything possible, even if current analysis doesn't support doing it wholeheartedly) rather than logic in choosing her treatment, and appealing to others emotions for support is following a similar path hundreds of women who had bone marrow transplants or stem cell transplants for metastatic breast cancer lobbied for and wasted thousands of health care dollars a decade ago.

I know we've got a few regular posters here with significant cancer-treatments in progress or recently finished besides BIll. I'm not trying to bump heads with you, but offer some perspective on this issue.

[ducking for cover]

epador,No reason t... (Below threshold)


No reason to duck for cover. The point is, the patient wanted to pay for medicine out of own pocket but NHS is blocking it. The Health Secretary thinks this is fair.


But the health secretary do... (Below threshold)

But the health secretary doesn't want to pay for taking care of her potentially much more toxic side effects of therapy that is not demonstrated to be superior to what she is getting as approved therapy. While not exemplary, not COMPLETELY knuckleheaded either. Just mostly knuckleheaded. Ask Miracle Max, he knows all about such semantics.

I had an aunt with breast c... (Below threshold)
chsw Author Profile Page:

I had an aunt with breast cancer in the UK. After she had her mastectomy, the chemotherapy and radiation technicians went on strike. She ran up against the same bureaucratic strictures that Hirst did - if you pay for any of your treatment, you must pay for all of it. She deteriorated during the strike of two months (?) during the late 1970s and died about two years thereafter. If she would have been in the USA with us, on private insurance, she probably would have lived.

Another case in point: The UK National Health Service did not pay for any MS-mitigating drugs until just a few years ago on the grounds that they were not cures. It took PM Blair's direct intervention, fwiu, to change that. Now, the bureaucrats are clamoring to remove those drugs from the formulary.

You can always shop around for better insurance. You can always change hospitals if one goes on strike. You cannot shop around for an NHS. You cannot change hospitals when there is a nation-wide strike. Just remember that in November before you vote for a jackass.

chsw (crosscommented on chequerboard.net, on RedState, and on Betsyspage as CW)

The NHS also fought to keep... (Below threshold)

The NHS also fought to keep the cancer drug Alimta off the formulary, again citing the fact that the drug cannot 'cure' lung cancer. But Alimta has been proven to slow the growth of mesothelioma tumors (a special kind of lung cancer caused only by asbestos exposure). Fortunately, the NHS has finally started paying for Alimta.

For those suffering from this horrible cancer, the extra months or years that Alimta can add to their lives is precious. I hope everyone understands that under a socialized medicine scheme, it becomes necessary for the government to put a dollar value on human life and suffering. And you (as a citizen) must comply with that decision, even though you have virtually no influence over how it is made.

Big Brother recognizes no p... (Below threshold)
civildisobedience Author Profile Page:

Big Brother recognizes no person, which is why you must never put yourself under His care. Better to die slaying Him, than die under him.






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