Monday 28 January 2008

Creeping technocracy in the NHS

Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph had a story about how ‘doctors’ believed old people shouldn’t necessarily be treated on the NHS. On closer examination, only two thirds of them seemed to have agreed – and to the highly ambiguous proposition “not treated when it would not benefit them for long”.

Everyone could probably agree to aspects of that: we should not “strive officiously to keep alive” – at least if we want people to die peacefully and in some control about when and where they do so. Even so, it's a worrying trend that even doctors are beginning to support the outrageous status quo, and even maybe extend it. It’s hard even now to get proper treatment on the NHS when you’re over 70 for strokes or depression.

Any extension of this would be a creeping, inhuman piece of functionalism. It goes along with the horrific way the medical profession is beginning to talk about 'harvesting' human organs. What is it about the medical profession that it swallows the government's mores and attitudes so completely?

I've been wondering whether it is something to do with the way that New Labour has managed our public services that they have been encouraging this kind of inhumanity among the professionals who work there. Are they so desperate to balance the books that they are prepared to accept this slow withdrawal of care from anyone the state deems unproductive?

Either way, it is an attitude that seems to fit with the giant, technocratic and decreasingly ineffective institutions - schools and hospitals and others too - that New Labour has created over the last decade. Or does it?

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