Does everyone have the right to the best healthcare, regardless of cost?
Some of us are lucky to live in parts of the world with excellent medical care. However, even in rich countries, health authorities have to make tough decisions because of the staggering costs of new procedures and medicines: who gets which treatment? Which patient is more deserving? In this essay I will discuss if universal healthcare is really possible.
There are several reasons why it is ridiculous to expect free or subsidized medical care indefinitely. First of all, every country has a limited health care budget. Money must be spent where it can do the most good for the most people. Second, many expensive treatments are experimental or a last resort. The patient may have already cost the government a small fortune. A third and harsh point is that we need sometimes to let nature take its course. For example, prolonging the life of someone in suffering, just because we can, is sometimes not the answer.
However, it’s also natural to fight for life. We rejoice when we hear stories of babies saved by incredible medical intervention or of difficult surgeries that successfully repair faces, hands and bodies. A related point is that we hope that these costly procedures will become routine and more widely available. Heart surgery was revolutionary in the 1960s but is now commonplace. Finally, most people understand the need for healthcare premiums, within reason, even if they never get sick. They are happy to share the burden of insurance if they know that they and their families are protected.
In conclusion, deciding who deserves which treatments is immensely difficult. We need to accept that there are limits to what medicine can do, as well as to how much we can spend on it.