Tuesday, September 2, 2008

UK Doctors Withholding Treatment Information From Patients

The August 26, 2008 Telegraph reports yet another example of the corrosive effect that nationalized health care has on the doctor-patient relationship.

The paper reports that many British oncologists (cancer specialists) deliberately don't tell their patients about all the possible treatment options, because some of those options would not be permitted under the government system, even though they may be available in other countries. Most of the time, these treatments are unavailable in England because of the expense.

Some of the British oncologists rationalized their policy on the grounds that, "there was 'no point' in discussing treatments their patients could not have" and that such a discussion might "distress, upset or confuse" their patients. But whether these doctors intend it or not, they've stopped being advocates for their patients and instead become agents of the government.

If a patient is willing to spend his savings for a medication that might help him live longer, he should have that right. Patients rely on their physicians for information about the full range of alternatives (including an honest appraisal of the various risks, costs, and benefits) so that they can make fully informed decisions about their lives. For a doctor to fail to provide that information would be a massive breach of his or her ethical responsibility to the patient.

But this is the predictable result when the government pays the doctors' salaries, rather than the patients. The physicians are then beholden to their employers and start working in the best financial interests of the government, not the patient.

And what makes the system especially evil is not the fact that it allows a few doctors to act badly, but rather that it takes good doctors and turns them into bad physicians willing to betray their patients.

American advocates of "universal health care" should ask themselves if this is what they really want...

(Via Medical Progress Today.)