You probably remember the famous words of that great prophet, Paul Krugman. (Let's hope that Krugman is a prophet. He is certainly not talking about reality.) Defending the British National Health Service in 2009, Krugman confidently denounced all of the “scare stories” about NHS treatments as false.
To recall his words:
In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false. Like every system, the National Health Service has problems, but over all it appears to provide quite good care while spending only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.
A scientific attitude requires that we test such statements against reality. Today, the Daily Mail reports on how the NHS treats the elderly:
Tens of thousands of elderly patients are enduring appalling NHS care because they are too frightened – or too polite – to complain.
They suffer in silence fearing even worse treatment if they dare to raise criticism, England’s health watchdog Dame Julie Mellor warned.
She said she had investigated cases of pensioners being effectively starved on wards and treated without a shred of dignity.
The story continues:
Despite being the last port of call for complaints, Dame Julie receives around 16,000 every year.
Of 904 NHS cases she investigated between April and December last year, 222 concerned the elderly.
She said: ‘There are common themes running through complaints about the care of older people.
Misdiagnosis, staff attitudes, poor communication with patients and families, substandard nutrition, and patients not being treated with dignity, just to name a few.’
One older man with Alzheimer’s and diabetes was prevented from going home to die beside the brother he had lived with his whole life. This, she said, was the result of a ‘string of errors by five organisations across health and social care’.
‘They left it a month before they had a meeting about his care, by which time he’d passed away without his dying wish being honoured.’
In another case, a hospital did not consult the family on a decision not to resuscitate and in a third, staff switched off a patient’s life support against a family’s express wishes.
The scare stories are not false. Krugman’s arrogance and ideological zealotry blind him to truth.