Rationing Health Services to the elderly: 'do-the-right-thing' Grandma!
In a bizarre statement today (20th August 2015), NT Health Minister, John Elferink openly discussed 'canvassing support for cutting seniors' funding' in health that 'has been coming "at the expense" of children'.
He told ABC News that 'the money would be better spent in the first year of a person's life.'
"The fact is we've pretty much reached the limit of how old we can grow as a species," he told the ABC after the annual Australasian aeromedical conference in Darwin.
"And yet we pour huge effort and resources into the last year of a person's life.
"If we are doing that, we are doing that at the expense of some other point in the medical system."
ABC News reports: 'Mr Elferink estimated an elderly person with a terminal illness cost the NT health system about $1 million per year.'
"Think of the work that could be achieved ... in the first year of life with a million dollars," he said.
No-one denies that there are problems with health budgets across the developed world. Our population is aging rapidly, living longer and more likely to die from chronic illness than ever before. That all adds up to a bigger slice of the health budget and, yes, when resources are finite, that means cutting the cake differently.
But budgets are not finite. Elferink might as easily have vented his frustration at the NT's Finance Minister or Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey for the limits on the funds made available. It doesn't have to be a 'one-or-the-other' situation even though no-one dismisses the difficulties.
Moeover, the 'doom-and-gloom' prophecy makes no account for medical innovation which is often driven by the kind of pressures that Elferink is facing. Cost containment needn't mean the denial of services.
As if the above were not enough of a concern, Elferink then seems to wont to lean on the sick elderly to 'do-the-right-thing':
"I suspect if you spoke to somebody who, ... for arguments sake, had end-stage renal failure and said: 'We can continue treatment but by discontinuing treatment your grandchildren would have a better opportunity'.
"Many of those old people would say 'Yeah I accept that'."
Maybe they would accept that, no question. But this kind of thinking is exceptionally dangerous and is eerily similar in some critical ways to the kinds of subtle pressures that people will undoubtedly experience under a euthanasia regimen - the duty to die. 'Think of the children', 'think of the cost', 'don't be a burden'.
And if grandma refuses to 'do-the-right-thing' and doesn't want to check out early, is she then carrying a burden of guilt that, according to Elferink's logic, she has prevented some children from getting good care?
The mind boggles!