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Prolong life at all costs: a bonanza for private health care, pharmaceutical companies and the financial services industry

“Is it a ‘success’ having thousands of elderly, immobile people in care or nursing homes, with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, post-stroke or myocardial infarction; blind from macular degeneration or deaf; incontinent and catheterised, unable to tend or feed themselves but living out some form of existence? I rather doubt it from a quality of life point of view, not to mention the strain it places on health and social care resources”.

So said David Peddy, challenging MP Dr Sarah Wollaston’s celebration of increasing life expectancy.

Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government and formerly an investment analyst in the City and on Wall Street, focusses on the argument that ‘we’ are about to see “the end of inheritance”, stating that the assets of the British middle-class will have to be spent on their own care in their later years.

Ms Maddox adds that some MPs are suggesting that government try to encourage people to see the equity in their homes as a resource while prompting the financial services industry to develop cheaper, more flexible products for extracting it.  

Some readers commented:

  • My life. My choice.
  • Right to die, please.
  • Those concerned about care costs eating away their inheritances – and who do not wish to be ‘cared’ for –  support assisted dying. It’s a win-win solution.
  • I would like the right to die when I become too incapacitated to lead the life that I want. Hopefully when I get to that stage it will be generally available as it is in some other continental countries.

Emma Duncan, editor of the 1843 magazine and former deputy editor of The Economist, wrote today in The Times:Seeing my mother spend her final years longing for death has convinced me the law on assisted suicide must change”

“My brave mother, who could meet pretty much any challenge with her head held high, was brought low in the end. As her spirit faded, the one thing that still got her going was the law on assisted suicide. It infuriated her. She could not see why she should be kept alive, unwillingly and at great expense. She asked me several times to put a pillow over her head or take her to Dignitas, but I pointed out that I could be charged with assisting her suicide, and it would be tiresome for my children if I were jailed, so she gave up. But she never stopped complaining about the law, or sending money to Dignity in Dying, in an attempt to get it changed.

“To honour her spirit, I shall be taking up the cause she espoused

“Her case, which she continued to put cogently to the end of her days, was twofold. The first argument was about freedom of choice. Our laws are, by and large, governed by the notion that people should do what they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. My mother wanted to die, but suicide is impossible for the old and frail, though for a while she tried starving herself to death. Why, so long as she was settled in her mind — something which an application to a judge, with a lapse of time between request and confirmation, could establish — would the state not make it easy for her to do what she wanted to do?

“The second point was about cost. She thought it a horrible waste that hundreds of thousands of pounds were being spent on keeping her alive when they might have funded better education for people starting out on their lives. And it was going to get worse as society aged. “Think of the waste!” she would say. “It’s simply ghastly!”

“When I would point out that changing the law might cause some suffering, of old people bullied into suicide by greedy relatives, for instance, she countered that Switzerland and the Netherlands, with liberal regimes, report no such problems”.

Emma’s mother believed that the balance would shift heavily in favour of a law liberal enough to let even those without terminal diseases end their lives.

Emma ended: “We will be cremating my mother’s body tomorrow, but to honour her spirit I shall take up the cause that she espoused. I believe, as she did, that change will come. And the sooner it comes, the better it will be for brave people who want to take control of their death rather than be vanquished by old age”.

 

 

 

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Can corporate-ruled America really be described as independent – and truly successful?

As American Independence Day was celebrated on Saturday many will wryly reflect that the country freed itself from one master only to embrace a far more formidable one – the multinational corporate sector, aka “a grubby cabal of privateers”, Monbiot.

Corporate rule works to the advantage only of their hierarchy and shareholders, at the expense of those on lower incomes; successive British governments have also embraced these corporate bedfellows – regardless of the social and environmental consequences.

The Center for Responsive Politics records some of the interactions between Congress and federal agencies (1998-2015) here:

lobbies usa 1998 2015

Corporate dominance skews decision-making in favour of profit maximisation, rather than the satisfaction of basic needs – leading to a high incidence of mental and physical ill-health

The US Council on Foreign Relations describes the findings of the US National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine as “a catalog of horrors”.

Two years ago, the conclusion of a major report released by the NRC and the Institute of Medicine revealed the extent of the US’s “health disadvantage”. The report recorded:

  • higher rates of disease and injury from birth to age 75 for men and women, rich and poor across all races and ethnicities,
  • the rate of teen pregnancy, traffic fatalities and heart disease,
  • and the rate of premature births in the US – the highest among the comparison countries and more closely resembling those of sub-Saharan Africa.

Eight people died and – according to local media – forty-one were wounded after an Independence Day shooting in Chicago on July 4th.

Gun2-Violence-Graphic_054144235308

Why are rates of suicide and homicide so high in the United States? PCU contends that it is due to organising society in the corporate interest – the consequence of a consumption-promoting “dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation”- Monbiot.

To all this, add environmental pollution.

A few examples:

miami coastline

In Miami, corporate builders support politicians that deny climate change and, in low-lying south Florida, building goes on.

children drone killed

And above all, the total loss of moral perspective shown by drone-delivered execution without trial – the frequent killing of civilians in other countries.

Arms industries, which spend huge sums to exert influence in the American states where they are located, are the only beneficiaries of the military aggression blackening the country’s reputation.

George Monbiot says “To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach: these are the highest purposes of humankind”. But the corporate world’s pointless and destructive jobs consume millions of the lives of the brightest students – as Monbiot says: “amputating life close to its base”.