The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today’s winner is British Health Secretary Alan Johnson. He gets the award for the following.

Although the government is reluctant to discuss the issue, hopscotching back and forth between private and public care has long been standard here for those who can afford it. But a few recent cases have exposed fundamental contradictions between policy and practice in the system, and tested its founding philosophy to its very limits.

One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

“He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.

“I said, ‘Where does that leave me?’ He said, ‘If you pay for Avastin, you’ll have to pay for everything’ ” — in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Patients “cannot, in one episode of treatment, be treated on the N.H.S. and then allowed, as part of the same episode and the same treatment, to pay money for more drugs,” the health secretary, Alan Johnson, told Parliament.

“That way lies the end of the founding principles of the N.H.S.,” Mr. Johnson said.

Blogger Betsy sums things up very nicely-

Imagine that. You have a terrible disease and either can afford to buy the extra drugs, but the government thinks it’s unfair that you are richer than poorer patients and so will block you from getting the drugs that could save your life. Or maybe you’re not really all that rich, but like this poor woman, you’re willing to sell your house on the chance that this drug will save your life.

If anyone based on yesterday’s Knucklehead thinks I’m in favor of nationalized healthcare, they are basically mistaken. I’m angered by idiotic bureaucracies both in the public and private sector.(The same goes for politicians so far as I’m concerned. I will Knucklehead Republicans and Democrats) If the conduct is outrageous enough, the perpetrator gets a Knucklehead.

British Health Secretary Alan Johnson statement in support of NHS policy towards Debbie Hirst outrages me enough to name him today’s Knucklehead of the Day.

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