Gosh, I’m not half enjoying all the horror stories American Conservatives are using to try to sabotage President Obama’s plans for universal healthcare. I particularly like the one about the Death Committee (do they mean NICE?) which sits to decide whether or not our elderly are to get life-saving treatment. But I fear the one about Stephen Hawking was pushing it a bit.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the Land of Freedom needs NHS-style universal healthcare like it needs an Ebola pandemic or Al Gore. But if you’re going to fight a propaganda war, I do think it’s important not to give ammunition to the other side. Choosing Stephen Hawking as your poster boy to ‘prove’ that President Obama’s healthcare proposals will be a disaster is probably not a good idea when a) he’s one of Obama’s “deep” admirers and is about to get feted by him at an award ceremony and b) when what you claim about him isn’t actually true.
No of course – contrary to the claim in a US business magazine – Professor Hawking wouldn’t have been allowed to die by the NHS if he had been British. We know this because he is, er, British and was being treated by the NHS for his Motor Neurone Disease long before he got famous writing the world’s most unread bestseller and became easily rich enough to afford private.
But I’m still not sure what this proves. The fact that Professor Hawking was not left to die by the NHS seems to me in no wise to demonstrate that our stagnant, creaky, wasteful system is not ripe for an overhaul. In one of the parallel universes possibly envisioned in his Brief History Of Time (don’t know: never read it; I’ve done War And Peace, though, which is a corker), it is quite possible that one Britain is running a much cheaper and infinitely more effective, Dan-Hannan-approved Singapore style health system; and that another Britain is abrim with splendid, clean, MRSA-free hospitals run by stern, buxom matrons and paid for by philanthropists who can afford to do so because of the splendidly low tax regime of a prime minister who very obviously isn’t Dave Cameron.
We just don’t know, do we?