People in the US are currently struggling with a dilemma about the future face of healthcare in their country. A lot of the arguments centre on Britain's National Health Service (NHS) with, for example, Katie Brickell, Brit bride who was told that she couldn't have smear tests until the age of 25 and who, now at that age, is dying of cervical cancer, saying she has been misrepresented in the US media debate over proposed "Obamacare" healthcare reforms.
What I think is being lost on both sides of the pond is that the NHS did not just spring fully-formed from the head of a Soviet-style committee, but rather is a femme d'une certaine âge whose first solid incarnation was as a propaganda weapon, when copies of the 1942 Beveridge report rained on leading German military/political figures' parades when dropped from bombers, because Nazis hadn't planned for the wellbeing of the Übermenschen nearly as well.
The NHS was conceived by William (later Lord) Beveridge as an essential part of the welfare state's architecture; a future Liberal MP, he was commissioned by wartime coalition leader Winston Churchill to fashion the country's social future, and this was made a reality by Clement Attlee's immediate postwar Labour government: it was a project that could be comfortably owned by people from across the political spectrum. One of the many things Beveridge realised that are now subject to mission-drift was that full employment would be essential to provide the tax returns that would fund the system, which was going to banish his five evil giants of want, ignorance, disease, squalour and ignorance.
Heaven knows that Americans looking over the sea at the NHS will see that there has been mission drift - I can see that even since I started training as a nurse in the 1980s. Then, there was a clear hierarchy of management - junior sister, senior sister, nursing officer, management board. Then, a way would have been found to give Katie Brickell her smear-test. Now, her request would have gone through so many oncological leads, champions and commissioners even before it hit a Byzantine yet burgeoning management system that it's a wonder they had time to give her one refusal, let alone three. Personally I don't agree that the NHS is socialised healthcare: rather, this is what happens when socialist masters get hold of what works and break it so they can take credit for struggling to to fix it.
There are many dangers of undertaking the journey towards universal health-care. I would like to highlight three.
1 - Healthcare "rights" are asserted that are no such thing.
The First Post's Alexander Cockburn asserts, rightly, that the great battles have already been won through, say, provision of clean water, better sanitation and the near-eradication of TB. So now we have "rights" being asserted which are in no way inalienable from the human condition. For example, I've seen the pain of women and couples who can't conceive, but to have children is, unfortunately, not a right. Neither is gender-changing surgery in the absence of being born with two sets of sexual organs. Nor is tattoo removal, which was at one point being prioritised by hospital trusts that had fallen behind in their targets prescribing how much time could lapse between GP referral and treatment.
2 - State-controlled healthcare is hostage to prevailing politically-correct ideologies.
Note I don't attack state funding here, but state control - which in the jealous eyes of socialism comes hand in hand with allocation of monies. For example, IVF treatment was once given only to heterosexual couples judged to have a strong commitment to each other, but now the liberal-socialist establishment is ticking two boxes at once by ensuring that same-sex couples have access to IVF, and that in the case of lesbians both guardians can be called "mother" because babies born through IVF treatment have no legal right to a father.
Otherwise, politicians' pet minorities can be prioritised above people with pressing needs. One example is travellers being allowed to skip doctors' queues in the South of England because they are judged to be "vulnerable"; another is an order that went out to overworked nurses to turn Muslims' hospital beds to face Mecca three times a day (while a Christian nurse is suspended for offering to pray for a patient); yet again, in Britain the roughly 80,000 unfortunate enough to be living with HIV/AIDS benefit from the efforts of affluent, articulate activists, while roughly 600,000 individuals infected with Hepatitis C, often caught in similar ways, languished almost unrepresented until bean-counters realised the cost of treatment is going to be disastrous.
3 - Sinister governmental agendas can be inserted at will.
In the UK, nurses and doctors at present have the right to opt-out of performing or assisting at abortion procedures, but this right is constantly under threat as it is perceived to interfere with a woman's right to choose abortion, although a woman's right to choose to give birth is not generally considered a priority by NHS commissioners. Technically full-birth abortion is illegal here, but the London Evening Standard notes that in one year 66 babies survived abortion for up to ten hours, because "once born no medical help is offered". At the other end of life, an unofficial policy of involuntary euthanasia is visited upon people in a coma in hospitals, especially those with no visitors (volunteers can be a great source of information).
I hope the American people look at professionally-placed stories about the NHS with caution, because one of the agendas at play here is operated by the British left who, not realising that outside their groupthink people have things called opinions, are trying to manipulate the "Obamacare" debate in order to bounce British conservatives into saying that they are not totally happy with the NHS. One current example is a smear-attempt upon MEP Daniel Hannan (involving, among other things, half-truths being fed to US commentators about Katie Brickell's views on the NHS), who gave a thoughtful interview with US talkshow host Glenn Beck starting with the prevailing social views at the NHS's inception and going forward from there. For those who are interested - and this is a fascinating insight into the socialist mindset - Hannan is actually being punished for the "crime" of delivering the following rather brilliant speech to the European Parliament on March 24 this year in response to an address by Gordon Brown on Britain's performance during the financial crisis.
We Brits should not have the arrogance to assume that a shared language involves a shared culture - Britain and America are different countries with many shared values, but many more divergences involving geography, history and worldview, to name but three. At the end of the day, the American adult population - like the British - is composed chiefly of grown-ups, and they will choose what they choose to resolve this very American dilemma, either through Town-hall meetings or at the ballot-box.