Michael Buerk’s refreshing honesty

For decades, the British have been brainwashed by their government and media into revering two of their country’s biggest bureaucracies: the National Health Service (NHS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Nigel Lawson

Retired Tory MP Nigel Lawson once said that the NHS is “the closest thing the English people have to a religion.” Google “our precious NHS” or “our beloved NHS” and you’ll get a gazillion hits. Grown people in responsible positions talk about the NHS as if it were a living creature…or a demigod. Last year, seven decades after its establishment, an MP wrote on Facebook: “Happy 70th Birthday to our precious NHS.” This June, when the prospect of a new US-UK trade deal raised fears of health-care privatization, Rachel Clarke, a famous doctor and writer, tweeted: “I can’t think of anything worse than our precious NHS in the clutches of American capital.”

Rachel Clarke

It’s one thing to appreciate your doctor or celebrate the advances of modern medicine. It’s another to talk in this borderline worshipful way about a government bureaucracy. This is especially the case when the bureaucracy in question is far from being all it’s cracked up to be. For all the glowing PR the NHS gets, a study last year showed that it “has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the western world….only Poland has fewer doctors and nurses than the UK, while only Canada, Denmark and Sweden have fewer hospital beds.” Its record on treating people with potentially fatal maladies is nothing less than horrific: such patients often have to endure perilously long waiting times for urgently needed tests, treatments, operations, and follow-ups.

Admittedly, although America may have the best world’s doctors and hospitals, its health-care bureaucracy also has its problems – but you don’t find anybody in the U.S. crowing about it in the way Brits have been trained to crow about the NHS.

Michael Buerk

All of which brings us to Michael Buerk, a longtime newsreader for that other supposedly beloved British institution, the BBC, who said recently that fat persons with obesity-related ailments should be refused the care they need and should instead be allowed to die in order to save money for the NHS. “Who is to say longevity is the ultimate goal in life?” Buerk asked, and encouraged his fellow Brits to see the early death of their untreated overweight countrymen as “a selfless sacrifice in the fight against demographic imbalance, overpopulation and climate change.”

Such views, of course, are not unusual. Indeed, the NHS itself, like socialized medical systems in other countries, routinely refuses certain treatments to patients who, for reasons of age or weight or whatever, are considered expendable. When politicians and bureaucrats publicly discuss such matters, of course, they lean heavily on euphemisms and circumlocutions. What sets Buerk apart from them is the refreshing frankness of his macabre, Hippocratic Oath-defying enthusiasm for what we are not allowed to call “death panels.”

It is interesting, by the way, that neither Buerk nor any of his old colleagues at the BBC have suggested that that frankly superfluous and outrageously expensive broadcasting service, whose “news” programs have long since consisted largely of left-wing propaganda, be defunded as a “selfless sacrifice” and the money spent on more important things.

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