A Glimpse of Obamacare through the Death of a Child in the NHS

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 8th, 2012

Week in Review

The problem with health care everywhere is twofold.  Our aging populations.  And our longer life spans that allow people to have more illnesses.  So improvements in medicine are compounding the problem.  By allowing people to live longer so they can consume more medical services.  And unlike manufacturing we can’t use new technology to increase efficiencies.  At least not yet.  So the only way to control costs is to spend less.  Treating only those who are sick.  And sending those who are not quickly on their way.  A health care triage system.  Where they quickly weed out the non-sick to make room for the sick.  To make sure they don’t waste their limited funds and services on those who don’t need it. 

It works well on paper.  But it has one serious drawback in practice.  The ‘assembly line’ triage can only catch the glaringly obvious.  Like a missing leg.  Or blood squirting out of a cut artery.  But if everything looks okay on the outside and the standard tests come back negative, doctors can discharge a patient.  Missing something a little more rare and unusual.  Like dehydration and kidney failure in an otherwise healthy child (see Doctors failed to spot toddler’s fatal illness on THREE occasions before he died by Jill Reilly posted 4/6/2012 on the Daily Mail).

A devastated mother is demanding to find out why her young son died after medics sent him home three times in less than two weeks. 

Harry Connolly died of dehydration and acute kidney failure after medics repeatedly failed to diagnose his illness…

Mrs Connolly said: ‘The fact remains that Harry died as a result of dehydration and acute renal failure despite being admitted to hospital twice and attended by an out-of-hours doctor in the space of just five days.

‘He would have survived if he’d remained in hospital from 26 April and fully rehydrated, he would have survived had he been readmitted on 28 April, and would have survived had the out-of-hours doctor referred him to be readmitted on 29 April.

Suppose the doctors admitted a similar child who proved not to be sick.  Taking a bed in pediatrics.  Taking a doctor away from other patients.  Taking nurses away from those more ill.  Taking up time on diagnostic equipment that they could have used on others actually ill.  Perhaps pushing back someone else in line.  Who may die because of the delay.  Then the doctor responsible for admitting a healthy child has to stand before an administrator.  To explain the waste of resources.  The death of a patient they couldn’t save thanks to the waste of said resources.  And the unnecessary expense of all those tests on a healthy child.  Exceeding the department’s budget.

Sadly, these are real concerns for those in the health care industry today.  Especially in national health care systems.  Like Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).  That are bursting at the seams because of the explosion in costs because of that aging population.  And their longer lives.  Taxing available resources so much that doctors have to carefully ration health care services.  To make sure that they are available for the patients who need them most.

This is the world of national health care.  Where you try to take care of everyone.  With resources that can’t save everyone.  Where the rationing of services leaves some to die.  And causes others to die that they could have saved had they only spent a few more moments on their diagnosis.  So if you want a glimpse into the world of Obamacare, here it is.  It will be like the NHS.  Only bigger.  And because it’s bigger it won’t be as good as the NHS.  Which is the problem with health care for everyone.  We don’t have resources to cover everyone in a national system.  Because the bureaucracy to run it will consume so much of the budget.  Requiring some sort of triage system.  Or death panels.  To ration those limited services.  To choose who to save.  And who to send home.  To let nature take its course.

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