- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A liberal mistrusts lessons bought with experience. For him, theory is all. He’s the only man who would sit down on a red-hot stove twice. That makes well-meaning Democrats marks for shysters selling health-care “reform,” global warming and appeasement of radical Islamists.

We’re not supposed to ask why so many Canadians, pleased and proud of their cradle-to-grave nanny care, try to get to the United States when they get really sick. We’re not supposed to examine Britain’s National Health Service, which in theory stands ready to cure everything from hickies and noogies to heart transplants and sex-change surgery, to see how our English cousins manage when they get sick.

It’s certainly true that not everyone who goes into a British hospital feeling bad leaves feeling worse or, even worse, leaves in a body bag. Many British doctors are skilled and hard-working. The taunt that “British health care is the best that Pakistan can provide” rings false. Many of the best doctors are Pakistani immigrants, and many English doctors have bailed for America, but what’s wrong with British health care lies in the inevitable leveling of socialism, where everyone is entitled to the second-rate.

The London Guardian, the left-most of the British “quality” newspapers, is running a series of horror stories about what it calls “a terrifying picture of many English hospitals, with people dying after being admitted with ‘low-risk’ conditions.” When members of Congress finish reading the 2,000 pages of Barack Obama’s monstercare, they ought to read the Guardian’s true tales of bedpans going bump and bang in the night.

“For Adrian Underwood,” the Guardian account begins, “it began with a terrifying loss of movement down the left side of his body. A hospital scan in Nottingham identified a benign tumor that if untreated would eventually crush his brain. Yet no one told him about it.

“More than 50 miles away in Solihull, Jenny Morgan sat in [the emergency room] for 90 minutes after suffering a stroke, before deciding to leave so she could ‘die at home.’ Half-blinded and in excruciating pain, she later returned, only to be told the stroke unit was full. And on a ward in Essex, Gillian Flack found her son drenched in urine and no nurses in sight. That night Kyle Flack, 20, suffocated after getting his head wedged between the metal bars of the hospital bed.” Said his mother: “You think hospitals are safe, but if I had never taken Kyle to hospital he would still be alive.”

This is anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but the Guardian — an enthusiastic champion of the British welfare state — insists that these are not isolated examples. The newspaper cites an investigation by a health organization called “Dr Foster,” based at Imperial College London, that cases such as these are “just the tip of the iceberg.” The Dr Foster investigation cited dozens of cases of surgery carried out on the wrong parts of the body, thousands of patients admitted with low risk of death who went on to die in hospital. Hundreds of them were younger than 65. Many of the hospitals didn’t bother to monitor the conditions of “acute patients” to prevent deterioration of their medical conditions.

There’s the usual Pollyanna response by defenders of the lapses of responsibility.

“What is remarkable about the National Health Service is not how many people are injured by it, but how few,” says a London lawyer who deals with the NHS. No doubt true, but an airline explaining why one of its jetliners had hit the side of a mountain would never offer the excuse that “well, that’s the only one of our planes that crashed today.”

Our English cousins can only hope to fix their system at the edges; once a nation adopts nanny care, the nannies are in charge forever. Rescinding entitlements is difficult, indeed, and the Senate may be the last chance to avoid catastrophe. Many of the Democrats in the Senate are determined to get health-care “reform” even it reforms nothing. Partisan bragging rights are at stake, and the present members are likely to be out of Congress, anyway, before disaster is revealed in full.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, will introduce an amendment to the legislation requiring members of Congress to enroll in the public option, assuring that they get the same health care — no less, no more — than the care they compel their constituents to accept. No one but a congressman would argue with that.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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