A group of doctors recently wrote a letter to an English newspaper reporting that in 2007-08, 16.5% of deaths in the U.K. followed “terminal sedation.” The doctors further noted that apparently dying patients often recover—if, that is, they haven’t been terminally sedated. (Nice term, isn’t is?)

Rupert Darwall, a London writer, reveals the mindset behind the practice of withdrawing support for granny:

The usual justification for socialized health care is to provide access to quality health care for the poor and disadvantaged. But this function can be more efficiently performed through the benefits system and the payment of refundable tax credits.

The real justification for socialized medicine is left unstated: Because health-care resources are assumed to be fixed, those resources should be prioritized for those who can benefit most from medical treatment. Thus the NHS acts as Britain’s national triage service, deciding who is most likely to respond best to treatment and allocating health care accordingly.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the NHS is institutionally ageist. The elderly have fewer years left to them; why then should they get health-care resources that would benefit a younger person more? An analysis by a senior U.K.-based health-care expert earlier this decade found that in the U.S. health-care spending per capita goes up steeply for the elderly, while the U.K. didn’t show the same pattern. The U.K.’s pattern of health-care spending by age had more in common with the former Soviet bloc.


President Obama’s plans for overhauling our system are based on this same assumption of scarcity–an assumption, Darwall notes, that is rarely challenged. But it should be:

[I]n a market-based system triggering one person’s contractual rights to health care does not invalidate someone else’s health policy. Instead, increased demand for health care incentivizes new drugs, new therapies and better ways of delivering health care. Government-administered systems are so slow and clumsy that they turn the lump of health-care fallacy into a reality.

In other words, folks, we may be on the verge of destroying the best health care system in the world—based on ideology and false assumptions.