Saturday, September 02, 2006
The September Socialist Standard and the article that most caught my interest this month was:-
Desperate Lies - The man who faced a choice of dropping dead while waiting on the NHS list or bluffing.
Early in August, a story broke about retired painter and decorator, Roy Thayers, having to lie in order to be free of terrible pain he'd been suffering for years, because of heart trouble.A cardiac specialist warned the 77-year-old that he needed a lifesaving operation as soon as possible, because he was in danger of having a fatal heart attack at any time. He was told the coronary angioplasty treatment he required would not be available from the NHS for nine months because of a waiting list, but added that by going private, Roy could have the operation within a week. Being penniless, Roy had the option of dropping dead while waiting on the NHS list or bluffing. He chose the latter, and said he'd pay, when he knew he couldn't.
He managed to stall requests for payment by hospital administrators,claiming he mislaid his chequebook. His operation took place quickly, he wrote out a "Mickey Mouse cheque" for the £8,500 cost the very next day, knowing he'd have to face the consequences later.
Speaking of his ploy, Roy said: "I love life, I love my dogs, I love fishing - why should I die for the sake of money?" Indeed, why should bits of paper decide who lives and who dies, or who eats and who starves, or who has a comfortable home and who has a stinking hovel, and so on?
It's sick and idiotic. But seeing how, under capitalism, goods and services are provided to make profit - not meet needs - this system has created a universal comparison commodity (a.k.a. money) against which other commodities can be measured. Comprising papernotes, metal discs or mere digital data, this comparison commodity exists in order that those with something others need can make its supply dependent upon receiving a specified amount of this measuring tool. No money, no provision.
When Tony Blair developed a dicky ticker, naturally, he got treated very quickly. No long delay for the likes of him. Not forgetting that the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust, having provided the PM with his cardiac catheter ablation operation, shortly afterwards decided to deny this treatment to others in order to cut costs and meet the government's six-month waiting-list targets.
Of course, Roy hasn't managed to defeat capitalism by writing his rubber cheque. For a start, as he said himself, "I paid into the NHS for years to look after me, but the doctors were telling me they wouldn't, so who's robbing who?" Furthermore, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) in charge of the hospital that treated him was soon threatening to send in the bailiffs, and he eventually settled on repaying his debt at £25 a week from his meagre pension.
No doubt, private health care enterprises will now do their utmost to ensure people have sufficient funds before they get treated in future. So although the money-loving Sun tabloid praised Roy for being "canny", and the profit-hungry Mirror said "well done", don't count on acquiring desperately needed medical care by the same method.
The fact is, no one should have to come up with devious methods to obtain critical health care or any other essential services and goods. In a decent and rational world these would be available according to need - not how much money people have depending on how much, or little, capitalism has allowed them to have in return for their exploitation and control by a minority ruling class.
The only reason this appalling and damaging situation continues is because we allow it. If all those unhappy and irate with the way they're made to live, work and struggle on pitiful pensions came together with the aim of getting rid of the system which allows a super rich minority and their money mechanism to control, deprive and manipulate this majority, then capitalism would be in serious trouble.
Roy Thayers is also quoted as saying: "The real working classes of this country - the ones who have very little money - have been abandoned by their own government." From his own experience, Roy might well now accept that this government (and those before it) has never had the needs of the electorate as its priority. The main concern has always been looking after British capitalists, not the working class majority.
The answer isn't more money for the NHS - since in a competitive world, there'll always be pressure on all governments to keep cutting back on state funding, and increasingly make people pay directly for what they need. No. The answer is a society with no money at all.
That's the only way to end the idiocy where, these days, NHS hospital employees are being told by PCTs to stop "overperforming" by providing treatment too quickly, because the government then financially penalises the Trusts for not adhering to minimum waiting times (as a result, one gynaecologist said he now spent more time doing sudoku puzzles than treating patients). And a moneyless society is also the only way to end the obscenity of driving people to desperate lies and deceit to obtain vital life-saving treatment that should be available to all - not just those sufficiently well off or powerful.