Many around the world have expressed dismay, outrage and surprise that British doctors (and now, two British courts) have ruled that little Alfie Evans must be forcibly prevented from leaving the UK to receive the medical care offered to him (for free) in Italy, or even from being allowed to go home to die.
Instead, he must remain to die in Alder Hey Hospital, under the watchful eyes of those who have rightfully assumed ownership of his person.
Why have the British healthcare system and the British government been so shockingly unyielding in this matter? It’s not because of cost, since free transportation to Italy has been arranged for Alfie, and free healthcare (as well as Italian citizenship) offered when he arrives. Cost is a non-issue.
Is it fundamentally an assertion of the Progressive state’s right (as opposed to the parents’ right) to control the fate of children? That certainly is a substantial part of it. According to CNN, Dominic Wilkinson, professor and director of Medical Ethics at the University of Oxford offered this regarding Alfie: “Sometimes, the sad fact is that parents do not know what is best for their child. They are led by their grief and sadness…to request treatment that will not and cannot help.” Obviously, such non-objectivity must be brushed aside by the appropriate authorities, even when there are no financial reasons for doing so.
But at least arguably, the right of the state to control our children has been adequately established in the public education system, and there is no obvious need to make the case so callously and so publicly in this particular instance.
I believe there must be some other reason the British authorities have (again) asserted themselves in determining that an apparently terminally ill child must die when and where they say he must die, regardless of his parents’ wishes.
As I see it, the British healthcare system did exactly what it had to do. As a matter of bedrock principle, it had no choice but to slam the door on Alfie’s parents. Any truly universal healthcare system has to behave like this.
A universal healthcare system is “universal” in two senses. First, it covers all people. Second (and here’s where the trouble starts) it covers “all” healthcare services.
Fundamentally, this “universality of features” reflects a particular philosophy. The central authority is telling the individual that “everything” will be taken care of for them, from soup to nuts. So no need to worry your pretty little heads.
As always when the central authority assumes all responsibility for providing some aspect of security (in this case, healthcare security), it also assumes all control. I am among those who argue that gaining control of virtually every aspect of an individual’s life is the main reason Progressives have chosen the healthcare system as their main battleground. That is, the chief purpose of running the healthcare system is not to deliver healthcare, but to establish the central authority’s right to control individuals’ behavior.
Allowing individuals to make their own choices — even if they spend their own money, or some third party’s money — fundamentally undermines any universal healthcare system. It suggests that the central authority is actually not supplying all useful healthcare services to individuals (when, by definition, it is), and thus implies that the government may be doing some kind of rationing. When one is dedicated to rationing covertly, such an implication cannot be permitted.
More importantly, when individuals are permitted, by whatever means, to receive “extra” healthcare, that’s a graphic admission to the unwashed masses that there is extra healthcare to be had. It suggests that the healthcare authorities are holding back, that perhaps the system is not as universal as they insist it is.
Any universal healthcare system worth its salt will pull out all the stops to restrict individuals from going outside of the system. The methods they employ will, of course, be conducted only for the best of reasons — to have the fairest healthcare system possible, to have the most ethical healthcare system that can be devised, and to protect misled proletariats from throwing their hard-earned money away on unproven medical services. Whatever the reasons they might offer, their attempt to restrict individual prerogatives will become deadly serious, because doing so is absolutely essential to their real aims.
Alfie’s devastated parents, tearing up before the microphones and cameras, might make the British healthcare system look bad for a few days. The system can take it.
By next week we all will have forgotten Alfie. And the central authorities will have preserved the fiction that they provide universal healthcare — both the fiction that if it’s healthcare, we provide it; and (more importantly) the fiction that if we don’t provide it, it’s not healthcare.