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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Free Books to Be Distributed at Saturday Tea Party Rally at U.S. Capitol

ALT TAGCaroline May and Devon Carlin distributing Shattered Lives at the March 16 Tea Party rally

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National Center staff members will be distributing a limited number of free copies of our book Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care at the Tea Party rally on the west side of the U.S. Capitol at noon Saturday.

If you can't attend but want a book, you can download a free PDF of Shattered Lives here, or buy a paper copy at Amazon.com.


E-mail comments to [email protected]. | Subscribe to feed. | Follow the National Center for Public Policy Research on Twitter. | Download Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

Friday, December 04, 2009

Centenarian Told to Wait 18 Months to Get Hearing Aid

ShatteredLivesCover100w.jpgThe British government's health care system put 108-year-old Olive Beal on an 18-month government waiting list for a new hearing aid.

Longevity apparently does not count for much in Britain's government-managed National Health Service.

Much of 108-year-old Olive Beal's hearing was gone. The one-time suffragette and former piano teacher from Kent, England was unable to enjoy music or hear conversations clearly with her five-year-old analog hearing aid. A modern digital device would improve Beal's hearing - and life - tremendously, but she was having difficulty receiving a replacement.

Beal's granddaughter, Maria Scott, explained: "Her analog hearing aid does not filter out background noise so it makes it very difficult for her to hear clearly. But the digital one would allow her to hear people talking to her and to CDs. She loves music hall numbers."

Beal was administered a hearing test in late July 2007, and a hearing expert recommended a digital hearing device. However, the local health authority, Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust, has an 18-month waiting list for new hearing aids provided through the NHS. Despite her age and despite contributing income taxes that fund the government's universal health system into her late 60s, Beal was told she must wait her turn in line. A spokesman for the Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust explained: "[P]riority is given to patients who do not have an existing hearing aid..."

Under the government system, Beal would be 110 years old by the time the new hearing aid was scheduled to arrive.

Beal expressed her fear: "I could be dead by then."

Maria Scott added, "I would have thought they would take her age into account as she probably has not got 18 months to wait... Her eyesight is falling [sic], and if she cannot hear then she will be isolated from the outside world."

Fortunately, widespread press attention and concern about Beal's situation prompted Phillip Ball, a private audiologist, to assist Beal voluntarily. Ball said:

"I can see no reason why a lady of her age should be fobbed off by her NHS Trust and told to wait at least 18 months, so I immediately got on the phone to offer my services. I visited Olive this week and she should have a fully functioning digital aid in a matter of days [early August 2007]. She will now be able to hear a great deal better."

A digital hearing device costs approximately 1,000 British pounds (~$1,600) each, and wait times for hearing aids can be over two years in some parts of Britain.

"The new digital hearing aids can really transform people's lives," said Donna Tipping of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, a British charity. "It is an issue of quality of life, with isolation, frustration and withdrawing from society caused by loss of hearing, and it is sad because this is reversible."

As her grandmother is one of Britain's oldest living citizens, Maria Scott added, "I thought a 108-year-old deserved to be treated better than this."

Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:00 AM

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Engineer Left Blind for Three Years Awaiting 20-Minute Operation

ShatteredLivesCover100w.jpg85-year-old Richard Adams went blind because the British government's health care system delayed his cataract surgery. Said Adams, "I've been waiting for three years but they don't seem to care. I think they're just waiting for me to die or something."

According to Britain's state-managed health service, cataract surgery is a "common" and "straightforward" operation that usually should last between 15 and 20 minutes. But such a quick turnaround would have been news to Richard Adams of London, who went blind in both eyes while waiting three years for cataract surgery.

The 85-year-old retired engineer and award-winning dancer began losing his vision in 2004. That year, doctors diagnosed Adams with cataracts, but an operation to remove them was not scheduled until March 2007.

His excitement in 2007 at the prospect of getting his sight and livelihood back was short-lived because doctors cancelled the surgery.

"I was over the moon when I found out I had an appointment in March [2007] but when it was cancelled I just went downhill," Adams said at the time.

Stuck in a wheelchair and suffering from asthma as well as kidney stones (also left untreated by the NHS, he said), Adams had difficulty performing everyday tasks. "I never cook anything," Adams explained then. "It always has to be cold things like sandwiches or salad. I can't go to the shops because I can't see where I'm going."

In despair, Adams said his life was "being wasted": "I have all these ideas in my head but I can't see to write and I can't see to draw. All I can do is sit in my house and listen to the TV. I can't see it and I have to turn up the volume because I can't hear well."

Spokesman Mark Purcell of Ealing Hospital, one of several hospitals that refused Adams treatment for his eyes, offered no sympathy. "If [Adams] has a complaint about the standard of care he has received he should write to the chief executive of the Ealing Hospital Trust." (Whether this bureaucratic solution, which asked a blind man to write, was intentionally or inadvertently cruel is unknown.)

Adams was scheduled to receive treatment in late May, but this was little consolation for him. "I've been waiting for three years but they don't seem to care. I think they're just waiting for me to die or something," Adams complained.

Finally, after Adams' plight received attention from the British press, doctors removed the cataracts in one of his eyes in June 2007.

"He was really pleased with the result of the operation," said Roger Woolsey, a family friend. "When I went to visit him he would raise the eye-patch and say: I really can see again."

Tragically, four days after the procedure that restored his sight, Adams died. He had a heart attack after developing blood poisoning in the hospital.

Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:49 AM

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"An Animal Would Have Been Treated with More Compassion"

ShatteredLivesCover100w.jpgDebra Luck, the widow of Ian Luck, believes the medical staff at the British government's Princess Alexandra Hospital was so neglectful of her late husband's care during his last days that he effectively "was murdered... because people couldn't be bothered to do their job properly."

Ian Luck spent the last weeks of his life in agony because of lack of care at the government-run Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, UK, where he died in 2002.

For over five years, Luck's widow, Debra, and nine-year-old son, Ben, fought for answers as to why hospital staff neglected Luck, frequently leaving him to lay in his own vomit and waste and failing to realize the severity of his increasingly-desperate state.

Luck checked in to the Princess Alexandra on June 12, 2002 after being too weak to eat and vomiting heavily. He had suffered for several years from gastric problems, and was treated twice in 2002 for lost fluids because of vomiting and diarrhea. This time, an endoscope discovered an ulcer. Doctors prescribed antibiotics to Luck, gave him fluids and sent him home after a six-day stay.

On June 20, Luck returned to the hospital for a second endoscope exam when the inflammation in his stomach had not cleared up. However, the ulcer ruptured during the procedure, and emergency surgery had to be performed to repair it.

Following surgery, Debra Luck was effectively left to look after his health and comfort.

"No one wanted to help us. Every time we asked for pain relief, or to see a doctor, we were told to wait, or that we didn't know what we were talking about," she said.

Luck's condition continued to decline, but hospital staff showed an utter lack of sympathy. Debra Luck recalled that the staff failed to or were slow to perform basic functions, such as cleaning up after her husband.

"He was vomiting ten times an hour, and there were bowls around his bed to catch it," she said. However, "Often they weren't emptied for more than an hour and they smelled awful. The first time that happened I found a nurse and asked if she could empty them. When she said she was too busy, I offered to do it myself."

Debra Luck began resorting to bringing in clean pillowcases, shirts and pants, and having to change her husband herself. "As fast as I changed him he was sick again. The nurses were not interested in helping me," she said. "An animal would have been treated with more compassion."

Meanwhile, it was not known if the bleeding from the ulcer had stopped. "I made two appointments to speak to a consultant during the course of those ten days," she said, "and both times he didn't turn up. When I tried to talk to junior doctors they were either too busy or didn't know enough."

Frustrated and fearing for her husband's life, Debra Luck attempted to have Ian transferred to a local private hospital. Though the private hospital agreed, staff at the Princess Alexandra rejected the move because Luck was not stable.

On June 28, at the request of a junior doctor, a consultant at last saw Luck. But the consultant failed to follow up on the suggestion that a laparotomy (surgical examination), which might have determined the definitive cause of Luck's bleeding, be carried out. On June 29, a second junior doctor called for a consultant's review, which was never performed.

Two days later, after a particularly agonizing night in which nurses forgot to inject painkillers, Luck began to lapse in and out of consciousness and struggle to breathe. That morning, "He was covered in vomit and had wet himself," remembered Debra. "I changed him, but when I asked for clean surgical stockings the nurse said there were none left in his size... I couldn't change his T-shirt without help... but I was told by the nurse she was too busy and to leave him dirty."

That evening, a junior doctor suspected that Luck had suffered a collapsed lung and ordered a chest X-ray. But Luck went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and had to be resuscitated. By the time family members arrived, Luck already suffered a second, fatal cardiac arrest.

"I actually feel that Ian was murdered," Debra said. "He died because people couldn't be bothered to do their job properly."

Debra Luck contends that the hospital did not carry out necessary tests. "What I've learned since is that his urine and vomit should have been monitored continuously. Both were vital to working out just how ill he was and whether he would need further investigations. The fact that no one kept a record probably added to his lack of correct treatment."

In October 2007, the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust agreed to compensate Debra and Ben a combined sum of £225,000 (~$366,000), though the National Health Service refused to accept liability for Luck's death.

For her part, Debra Luck remains angry, telling Britain's Daily Mail, "No one has been punished or sacked. No one from the hospital has offered to meet me and tell me how things went so wrong, let alone offered an apology. For all I know, the same appalling standard of care is still acceptable in that hospital. If that is the case, then there will be more unnecessary deaths."

Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:36 PM

Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian Cancer Patient Fights Bureaucracy in Desperate Fight for Life

ShatteredLivesCover100w.jpgTo fight advanced colon cancer, Canadian Suzanne Aucoin needed Erbitux, a powerful anti-cancer drug, but the Canadian health bureaucracy said it wouldn't pay. Aucoin traveled to New York to get the drug and to begin treatment on her own. "I am completely disgusted with our health-care system," Aucoin said.

Suzanne Aucoin of St. Catharines, Ontario never imagined that dealing with the Canadian health care bureaucracy would be as tough as battling terminal cancer.

Aucoin had to go to the U.S. for treatment initially denied to her. While ill, she then engaged in a prolonged and complicated fight to get access to a life-extending anti-cancer drug and to recover the exorbitant amount she was forced to spend out of her own pocket on treatment.

In 1999, Aucoin was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Surgeons removed large portions of her intestine and colon. But about four and a half years later, Aucoin became easily fatigued and felt pain in her side. A follow-up visit with her doctors revealed that the cancer had reappeared and spread to her lungs and liver.

In January 2004, Aucoin began chemotherapy treatment for stage IV colon cancer, the most advanced stage. A CT scan showed that chemotherapy had been ineffective at destroying the tumor in her liver. Aucoin's oncologist recommended that weekly doses of the powerful anti-cancer drug, Erbitux, offered her the best hope for staying alive. The problem was the drug - which can shrink tumors in advanced cancer patients - was not publicly-provided or even available for purchase in Ontario.

Worse yet, Ministry of Health officials denied Aucoin's application for out-of-country funding to permit Aucoin to get the potentially life-extending drug in the U.S. However, Aucoin claimed, the government was paying for three other patients with a similar form of cancer to receive treatment abroad. Reviews are on a case-by-case basis, but the health ministry did confirm it paid for some patients to receive Erbitux in the U.S.

"I just find it ridiculous that I have to go to these lengths when the government is glaringly wrong. They have all these inconsistencies, and I'm the one who suffers because of it," Aucoin said.

Despite the government's refusal to fund her treatment, Aucoin began receiving weekly treatments of Erbitux at a cost of $14,000 (USD) a month at a clinic in West Seneca, NY. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Erbitux in February 2004. Thankfully, friends and supporters raised more than $180,000 (CAD) over several years to help pay for her treatment.

"You can't wait with this cancer," she said. "You can't wait for people to make decisions about your health. You can't wait for forms to be filled out. You have to go where the drug is."

In fall 2005, Health Canada - the Canadian agency responsible for evaluating drugs - approved Erbitux. But health officials refused to cover Erbitux and limited the number of patients who could have access.

Fortunately, a loophole existed. In December 2005, Aucoin was the first patient allowed Erbitux under a Special Access Program set up for seriously ill patients. She would have to pay over $6,000 (CAD) a month for treatment, which she received at a Hamilton, Ontario clinic, while the government paid the administrative costs.

"I just want to take care of myself," Aucoin said. "My job is to get well and I feel like my government's letting me down because they're not doing their job."

Following another appeal for out-of-country funding several months later, the government changed its mind and, without explanation, agreed to cover Aucoin's treatment. The decision meant Aucoin would no longer pay out-of-pocket, but she would again need to travel across the border. Oddly, the government directed her to a Buffalo, NY cancer hospital that charged thousands of dollars more for Erbitux than the West Seneca clinic Aucoin used for out-of-pocket treatment. She began treatment at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in April 2006.

Then the Ontario government stonewalled Aucoin's attempt to be reimbursed. In June 2006, health officials denied her application for reimbursement saying the government would "only approve [reimbursement] if it's in a certain setting, i.e., a hospital," not a private clinic. Moreover, Aucoin was not granted funding approval before she went abroad for treatment.

"I am completely disgusted with our health care system," Aucoin said. "I am very discouraged and frustrated by the lack of professionalism, the lack of consistency and the lack of care for me as an individual patient." She added, "I'm not asking for Botox, I'm asking for life-saving treatment."

After losing on appeal and running out of options, Aucoin appealed to Ontario's ombudsman, Andre Martin. Following his investigation, in January 2007 Ontario's health officials finally agreed to pay over $76,000 (CAD) for Aucoin's out-of-country care and for legal expenses. The ombudsman blasted health officials for their "cruel" treatment and "slavish adherence to rules at the expense of common sense."

"I should never have had to deal with this, it takes all my energy to fight cancer," Aucoin said. "It rights a wrong on some levels but you cannot put a price tag on my mental strain and stress."

Tragically, Aucoin lost her fight against cancer. She passed away in November 2007.

Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:19 PM

Monday, November 16, 2009

Canadian Patient Flies to India for Immediate Care

An ailing hip caused Canadian Raghav Shetty so much pain that he could barely walk. Instead of being one of 25,000 patients in Calgary waiting up to two years for surgery or a scan, Shetty traveled to India, his native country, for immediate partial hip replacement surgery.

An ailing hip caused Canadian Raghav Shetty so much pain that he could barely walk. Instead of being one of 25,000 patients in Calgary waiting for surgery or a scan (up to a two-year wait), Shetty traveled to India, his native country, for immediate partial hip replacement surgery.

Flying to a faraway country for medical care did not seem too outrageous an idea for Canadian Raghav Shetty - at least, in comparison to the alternative. The 61-year-old Calgary, Alberta man's bum hip had effectively immobilized him. Yet he faced several years of waiting in distress for surgery in Canada's "universal" Medicare health system.

Shetty had developed severe osteoarthritis in his left hip joint. He was in so much pain that, even with the aid of painkillers, each step was tormenting.

"I'm in extreme pain," he admitted. "I'm stuck at home, I can't work. It is difficult for me to provide financial support to my family and the quality of my life is very bad."

"He can barely walk. He drags his legs everywhere he goes," added daughter, Shilpa Shetty.

Shetty, a 20-year resident of Calgary, discovered the wait for partial hip replacement surgery would be up to two years. At the time, in 2004, some 25,000 patients were on waiting lists for surgery or diagnostic scans in Calgary's hospitals.

Facing a bedridden wait on Medicare, Shetty and his wife, Prema, looked elsewhere for quicker treatment. They discovered a private facility in Chennai, India offering immediate care. The entire out-of-pocket cost for the operation and for both to fly to India would be $15,000 (CAD), but the couple believed waiting up to two years for care locally was not a realistic option.

"I had no choice but to try elsewhere for my surgery due to the long waiting period and severe pain in my hip joint," Shetty said. "I could not walk more than a few meters. Under these conditions, waiting for one to two years was simply not possible for me."

In September 2004, the Shettys traveled to Apollo Specialty Hospital for a successful five-hour surgery. Shetty, an Indian immigrant, said returning to his native country for a medical procedure was not something he would have considered had it not been for the excessive wait.

"Of course, my first choice would have been always Canada," he said. "However, in recent years, the waiting period for major surgeries is too long for patients suffering from severe pain and serious medical conditions."

Daughter Shilpa objected to the tedious wait her father would have endured if he stayed in Canada. "We've given up on our health care system. Why don't they understand that some people are in so much pain that they just can't wait?" she asked. "We don't have any options and can't wait anymore."

Though the long wait forced Shetty to look outside Canada, the health department in the province of Alberta rejected his claim for reimbursement for his care in India. Generally, the government reimburses only such patients who go abroad when treatment is unavailable locally or if the patient's life would be in jeopardy while waiting.

As published in a 2007 Fraser Institute survey, an estimated 5,029 people in Alberta were waiting for hip or knee replacement surgery as of March 31, 2007. According to the same report, nationwide some "estimated 523,600 Canadians had difficulties getting to see a specialist, 200,000 had difficulties getting non-emergency surgeries, and 294,800 had difficulties getting selected diagnostic tests."

Learn the truth about government-run medicine from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:01 PM

Friday, November 13, 2009

Britain's National Health Service Denied Sight-Saving Medicine to Its Own Employee

Despite her 18 years of service to Britain's government-run health system, Sylvie Webb had to fight her employer for sight-saving drugs.

An employee of Britain's government-run National Health Service was denied medication that could save her from going blind in one eye.

Sylvie Webb, a widow from Salisbury, England, worked for 18 years as a secretary at Salisbury District Hospital. Yet, despite her situation, Webb discovered that medical treatment under the public health service is anything but universal.

In February 2007, doctors diagnosed Webb, then 58, with the "wet" type of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in her left eye. If not treated in a timely manner, wet ARMD "can lead to blindness in as little as three months and people need prompt treatment if they are to minimize the risk of permanent sight loss," according to a statement by the Royal National Institute of Blind People in London.

As such, Webb's medical consultant sought rapid treatment for Webb because her sight was "deteriorating 'day by day,'" as Webb explained, and an infection in one eye can spread to the other good eye.

But to Webb's dismay, for nearly a year her local public health authority, Dorset Primary Care Trusts, refused to provide Webb with the expensive "anti-VEGF" drugs she desperately needed to save her sight. Though two such effective drugs, Macugen and Lucentis, are licensed for general NHS use, the Dorset Trust, which controls funding prescriptions, dragged its feet. Dorset Trust said it has yet to formulate a policy in a "fair and equitable way" to treat Webb's condition and thus it could not provide her with the VEGF drugs.

As Webb explained at the time, "At the time, the PCT [Dorset Primary Care Trusts] said it hadn't got a policy and it would address the situation in April [2007] - but it has now postponed this until June. I'm extremely worried that time is running out for me and other patients."

The prospect of going blind terrified Webb:

"I'm a young woman and want to carry on working, and then I'd like to do all the things I had planned for my retirement. I'm also worried about the health of my other eye. I know I'm at increased risk of getting wet AMD in that eye and this could mean I end up losing my sight. The women in my family live into their 90s; I can't accept the possibility of being blind unnecessarily for the next 35 years."

In May 2007, the Trust agreed to review Webb's case on an urgent basis. But for Tom Bremridge, CEO of the Macular Disease Society in Andover, UK, there is no excuse for Webb being without the available sight-saving drugs she needs. "It is outrageous that in this day and age Mrs. Webb faces losing her sight owing to bureaucratic idleness," he said.

Steve Winyard of RNIB echoed Bremridge's outrage:

"This is disgraceful... It's little comfort for Mrs. Webb that she can't get treatment simply because her PCT has yet to decide a policy. The PCT needs to get its act together and ensure these drugs are available to patients now and without a struggle... There is a moral imperative to save the sight of people where we can."

Finally, in 2008 new health guidelines permitted Dorset Trusts to prescribe Lucentis for Webb. The guidelines published by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the government's health advisory authority, allow for funding for the first 14 injections of Lucentis once wet ARMD is diagnosed in one eye. If additional injections are necessary, the drug's manufacturer, Novartis, will pay for additional treatment.

Webb was delighted that she would at last receive the sight-saving drug. "I'm so relieved that Dorset PCT has finally realized the long-term benefit to me of this treatment and has agreed funding," she said. "I only hope that all patients are given treatment to help save their sight because while this is good news for me, there may be hundreds of others with wet AMD who cannot get the funding they desperately need."

Learn the truth about government-run medicine by reading true stories, such as the one above, from countries with a government-run health care system in the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:00 AM

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Government Health System Penalized Woman for Supporting Her Own Cancer Treatment

Summary: The British National Health Service refused to provide the advanced cancer drug Avastin to Colette Mills, who was willing to pay for it herself. Mills was told that if she paid for the drug the NHS didn't cover because if its cost, the NHS would stop paying for her cancer treatment altogether.

Colette Mills of North Yorkshire, England was up against a rigid National Health Service policy that at the time would have taken away her taxpayer-provided health care if she purchased a life-extending cancer drug beyond the dosage the government provided for her.

Mills fought breast cancer for over a quarter century. Though the last roughly 20 years were "blissfully" clear of cancer, she says, it returned in 2003 and spread throughout her body. The 58-year-old former NHS nurse was given Taxol, a chemotherapy drug, as part of her publicly-financed health care. But, following the advice of her hospital specialist, Mills decided to spend her own money to boost her treatment with the so-called wonder drug, Avastin.

Drug trials show Taxol is perhaps twice as effective when combined with Avastin, and, when coupled, the drugs could slow advanced breast cancer.

Mills believed that combining the drugs "would probably give me a longer life and a better quality of life." She added, "Avastin may only increase your lifespan by six weeks or six months but, believe me, when it's your life, you're not picky."

The rub at the time was even if Mills paid out-of-pocket to supplement her care, the NHS would begin to bill her for the entire cost of treatment because she would be considered a private patient.

"If a patient chooses to go private for certain drugs they elect to become a private patient for the course of their treatment for that condition. That is trust policy," said a statement by South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, Mills' local health care provider.

Though Avastin was publicly available elsewhere in the UK, South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust would not fund Avastin because of its high cost. In Britain, the wide disparity of drugs and services made available depending on locality is informally termed the NHS 'postcode lottery.'

Mills was willing to pay the estimated £4,000 a month to get the expensive drug and have it administered - but she did not want to be stuck with the tab for her entire treatment. "The costs would increase from £4,000 a month to about £10,000 to £15,000 for all my care. I would need to pay charges for seeing the consultant, for the nurses' time, for blood tests and scans," Mills explained.

Thus, by doing what she thought necessary to improve her chances of survival, Mills would be responsible for paying some £15,000 (~$24,400) to the government. "The policy of my local NHS trust is that I must be an NHS patient or a private patient," said Mills. "If I want to pay for Avastin, I must pay for everything. It's immoral that the drugs are out there and freely available to certain people, yet they say I cannot have it."

The rationale for the bizarre policy that restricted how citizens spent their own money for health care was rooted in the NHS's belief that care should be equal and not based on a patient's ability to pay. "The Government is committed to a publicly funded NHS, free at the point of use and available to all regardless of income," explained a spokesman for Britain's Department of Health. "Co-payments would risk creating a two-tier health service and be in direct contravention with the principles and values of the NHS."

The health care provider, therefore, rejected Mills' request because it considered her buying an extra drug to be an "add on" to her existing NHS treatment. Mills' pleas to the NHS health trust were rejected, and she and husband, Eric, abandoned their challenge.

"I can't go private..." said Mills. "This decision is totally unjust... this drug would prolong my life."

Mills recognized there naturally may be cost prohibitions for some care. But, she argued, "The whole concept of the NHS is that it's free at the point of need. Why should that stop because I want to pay for something?" She also pointed out the NHS's apparent double standard. "It is already a two-tier NHS," said Mills. "I'd had a scan privately when there was a two-week wait on the NHS... If I go to the dentist I can mix my NHS and private treatment."

Professor Karol Sikora, a medical expert who advises the World Health Organization, sided with Mills. "For health bosses to say Mrs. Mills cannot top up her NHS treatment is ideology gone mad. It is medical communism and utterly immoral," she charged. "This is unfair to taxpayers who are entitled to NHS care. If this patient wishes to pay for another drug, that should be her choice."

After considerable public disapproval and an official Department of Health Review, the NHS reversed its supplemental treatment policy in November 2008. Alan Johnson, the then-Health Secretary, announced new guidelines that purchasing private treatment will not mean that patients forfeit their entitlement to NHS services.

Reacting to the policy change, Mills said, "This move by the Government is exactly what I've been fighting for - but it has been a long time coming."

Although the government's change of policy was welcome news for patients like Mills, it came too late for Mills herself - four months after her unsuccessful effort to purchase Avastin herself, her cancer spread to such an extent that it will no longer respond to the treatment.

Learn the truth about government-run medicine by reading true stories, such as the one above, from countries with a government-run health care system in the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:36 PM

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fourteen Hospitals Turn Away Critically-Injured Elderly Man

Summary: Instead of whisking a 69-year-old Japanese bicyclist who collided with a motorcycle to the emergency room, paramedics called 14 hospitals trying to find a facility that at last accepted the critically-injured man. The hospital at which he was taken attempted to transfer him to a better facility, but by this time the man was in such poor condition that he died of hemorrhagic shock.

Rescue workers in Japan called fourteen hospitals before finding one that would take an elderly bicyclist who collided with a motorcycle.

The accident, which occurred at 10:15 pm in the Japanese city of Itami, left the 69-year-old bicyclist, who was not identified, in critical condition with back and head injuries. Paramedics arrived on the scene five minutes after the crash and administered first aid. Yet, for about an hour, they were unsuccessful at locating a hospital to treat the man.

Helpless, the elderly man waited in the ambulance at the accident scene as hospital after hospital rejected treating him, citing unavailable beds, staff shortages and a lack of equipment and specialists. All told, fourteen hospitals in the neighboring prefectures -- i.e., governing districts -- of Hyogo and Osaka refused his entry.

"There were four other emergency calls in the same time frame of that night," explained Mitsuhisa Ikemoto, the fire department spokesman. "[A]s a result, we were unable to find a hospital."

It took a second round of calls for rescue workers to find a hospital. Finally, at 11:30 that night -- 75 minutes after the accident -- they took him to a hospital in Itami, which had initially declined to accept him. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the hospital's resources that night were unsatisfactory.

At the time of his arrival at the hospital, the elderly man was already in critical condition from the accident and post-accident delay. When his condition suddenly deteriorated, hospital staff scrambled "to transfer him for better treatment," according to the Associated Press.

Two hospitals rejected that transfer request. By the time a third hospital agreed to take the man, his condition was too poor to permit him to be moved.

He died of hemorrhagic shock at about 1:15 the next morning.

The Associated Press reported that the man "initially showed stable vital signs," and, attributing the assessment to Ikemoto, reported the man "might have survived if a hospital accepted him more quickly." Ikemoto was quoted saying, "I wish hospitals are more willing to take patients..."

Rescue workers also had trouble finding a hospital to treat a 29-year-old motorcyclist who also had been involved in the crash. Despite the motorcyclists' severe injuries, the first two hospitals contacted refused to admit him. The third try succeeded, and the man was taken to a university hospital in Hyogo. Fortunately, two weeks after the accident, he was recovering.

The frustrating, and in one case, tragic experiences of the two accident victims initially denied medical care are not unique in Japan's universal health insurance system.

According to a government survey conducted by the country's Fire and Disaster Management Agency, Japanese hospitals denied admission to some 14,387 emergency patients in 2007. All 14,000-plus patients identified on paramedics' reports were rejected at least three times. Moreover, at least 3.5 percent of these victims had serious conditions, which the survey defined as requiring more than three weeks of hospitalization.

Learn the truth about government-run medicine by reading true stories, such as the one above, from countries with a government-run health care system in the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care, by Amy Ridenour and Ryan Balis. Complete PDF copies are available free or you can buy a copy now at Amazon.com.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:36 PM

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

100 Stories of Personal Struggles with the Health Care System You Won't Hear from President Obama

ShatteredLivesCoverSm.jpgAs the White House has announced that the First Lady will watch the President's health care speech tonight with two people who have had what the White House terms as "struggles" with the U.S. health care system, I remind everyone about our new book, "Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care."

Shattered Lives tells of the struggles 100 people in countries that previously adopted the so-called "public option" (read: government option) on health care have had getting health care services. These are the kind of stories I think we can be confident the President won't reference during his speech tonight.

We are not charging for PDF copies of the book, which readers can download from http://www.nationalcenter.org/
ShatteredLives.html
.

Why not download a copy now, and email it to any of your friends or family or are on the fence about the impact of increasing government control over our health system? Or post a link to the book's free downloads page on your Facebook page or blog?

Remember, folks: Government-run health care guarantees you health insurance -- it doesn't guarantee health care.


E-mail comments to [email protected]. | Subscribe to this blog's feed. | Follow the National Center for Public Policy Research on Twitter. | Download our book Shattered Lives: 100 Victims of Government Health Care.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:55 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Girl, 17, Faces Paralysis Thanks to Gov't Health Care Waiting List

A young lady in Ireland fears she may be paralyzed for life because Ireland's government-run health care service hasn't gotten around to putting her on the waiting list for the operation she needs -- and the waiting list is a year long.

From the Dublin Herald:
A teenage girl will be left paralysed if she does not get urgent surgery on her spine.

Lauren Browne (17) told the Herald that, despite the seriousness of her situation, she is not even on the year-long waiting list for an operation.

Lauren suffers from idiopathic scoliosis and is struggling to get on the list for the life-changing procedure at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, due to severe budget cuts imposed by the HSE.

The operation would drastically improve Lauren's quality of life and the teen runs the risk of becoming paralysed without it.

"I'm not even on the waiting list. I'm on the waiting list for the waiting list. My surgeon told me that I cannot wait a year. My vertebrae is rotating so rapidly that I have the risk of being paralysed if I wait for the surgery that long."

Lauren's quality of life has deteriorated since the diagnosis and she hit out at the HSE for what she feels is its lack of concern.

Lauren said: "The HSE just don't seem to care. Our cases are not qualified as life threatening, but I have no idea how they don't consider this to be life threatening. They have no idea what it's like for me.

"When I was told I would have to wait at least a year, I nearly started crying. It was horrible to hear," she said...
Ah, well, she's 17. Her best years are already behind her, right?

Read the rest here.

Watch for The National Center for Public Policy Research's upcoming new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care, for more on the way waiting lists affect the lives of people living in countries with government-run medicine.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:46 AM

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thin Skins Across the Pond

There's been a bit of a fuss in Britain the last few days. It's keyed to Americans taking a look at the performance of their government-run health care system, the National Health Service, or NHS, and finding it wanting.

It seems that more than a few Britons are taking this personally, as if our horror at seeing, for example, Britons routinely denied potentially-lifesaving cancer drugs because of their cost is a hostile, anti-Britain sentiment.

Quite the contrary: If we did not like you, we wouldn't be so horrified.

This debate is more than of passing interest to me because this week the National Center for Public Policy Research will release its newest book, "Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care."

The chapter on Britain is the longest.

Beginning soon, we'll be running a story a day from the book in this blog. As we do, I expect I'll also be editorializing a good bit more about what our friends in Britain have said in defense of their own health system, and their attacks on our own.

In the meantime, I recommend this excellent post on the Classically Liberal blog, which contains several stories from Britain.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:11 AM

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Want a Baby? Thanks to Government Health Care, In Britain Becoming a Parent May Depend on Where You Live

Everyone over a certain age knows what you have to do if you want to have a baby -- that is, except in Britain, where for some couples, the route to parenthood lies in changing their home address.

That's because Britain's government-run health care system, the National Health Service, or NHS, decides whether to provide in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to couples based in part on their home address.

It's a situation known as the "postcode lottery" to ordinary Britons, who have long known that their ability to get knee replacement operations, cancer-curing drugs and other medical services and procedures may be granted -- or withheld -- from them simply because of where they live.

Now, thanks to a survey by a Member of Parliament, it's become clear that its not just quality-of-life and death that may be determined in the postcode lottery, but the opportunity to be born itself.

MP Grant Shapps found that the regional primary care trusts under which the NHS operates have widely divergent rules covering when couples are eligible to receive IVF services, despite the existence of uniform national recommendations set out by the British government's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE.

Under NICE recommendations, women under 40 should be eligible for up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS. Nonetheless, in some areas it was unavailable to women aged 23-39. In others it was available only to women aged 37-39.

In about half of Britain, the NHS declines IVF services to couples in which one partner already has a child. Likewise, in half the country couples are required to have been in a relationship with one another for at least three years before seeking treatment, while in other areas there is a shorter time requirement, or none.

In many parts of Britain couples who smoke are ineligible for IVF, although some regional trusts relent if only the man smokes.

Despite NICE guidelines calling for access to three cycles of IVF on the public NHS system for all women under 40, Britain's Department of Health said only 30 percent of regional primary care trusts provided three cycles, 23 percent provided two cycles and 47 percent one cycle.

Watch for The National Center for Public Policy Research's upcoming new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care, for more on "postcode lotteries" and rationing in countries with government-run medicine.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:21 AM

Monday, August 10, 2009

Egg on Face of Left, But It's Probably the Right's Fault Anyway

The left-wing Think Progress website reports that the situation of Kenneth Gladney, the "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt salesman who reportedly was assaulted at a town meeting last week, "underscores the vital need for health care reform" because Gladney "has no affordable health care option available."

Another website the group quotes, the Moderate Voice, says, "If anything was more calculated to make the Right look foolish than this St. Louis incident then I'd love to see it."

Hmmm.... turns out Mr. Gladney has insurance after all. The erroneous report that he didn't appeared in the mainstream media.

But of course the Right is always defending the accuracy of the mainstream media, so the whole muck-up is probably still our fault.

To Think Progress' credit, it updated its blog post with the information that Mr. Gladney does have health insurance.

Nevertheless, something more needs to be said: this debate is not only, or even primarily, about access to health insurance. It is about access to health care. No one argues that Mr. Gladney got that, and promptly, too.

As a new book the National Center for Public Policy Research will soon release, "Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care" aptly demonstrates, prompt (or even any) access to health care is not something people in Britain, Canada, Australia or other nations with government-run health care systems can take for granted.

Insurance they got.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:48 PM

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