Australian bishop warns: Don’t cut medical costs by targeting elderly
Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said health economists and utilitarian philosophers were placing the elderly at risk by treating them as a “swarm of voracious but unworthy consumers of a resource which doctors must guard from them.”
Delivering the 2012 Anscombe Memorial Lecture at St John’s College, Oxford University, he accused health economists who focused disproportionately on costs of “showing us how to get most efficiently to the wrong place.”
“In the process we may be led to compromise basic moral principles against killing, harming and abandoning, and favoring respect for the dignity and equality of all, promotion of health, reverence for the elderly and support for the disadvantaged,” Bishop Fisher said in his Oct. 15 lecture.
“We should resist that pressure now by a strong insistence that age will not be a criterion of health care distribution,” he said.
Bishop Fisher concluded that priority of access to care and resources should be granted on the basis of needs, irrespective of age, with more important needs overriding less-important demands.
“The elderly are not a problem, a market, a budget: They are real individuals, our own people, our ancestors, in due course — ourselves,” he said.
Bishop Fisher said age rationing would not relieve indefinitely the problem of escalating demands and costs of health care systems.
“Which group will be next for exclusion once those savings have been exhausted?” he asked. “Those with handicaps or those whose social contributions are deemed low?”
In his lecture, arranged by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, an institute serving the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the bishop rejected arguments that it was unjust to allow rising numbers of elderly to soak up resources that should be allocated to younger people.
His remarks came as concerns mounted about the care of the elderly in Britain’s state-funded National Health Service. [More]