Monday, March 27, 2006

Emotion and economics

Those of you who bought the Sunday Times yesterday will have been struck by the front page story concerning the debate amongst obstetricians about the wisdom and viability of treating severely pre-term babies (c.25 weeks or less). These children require intrusive and painful intensive care, which can cost over £1,000 a day all told. The story in question was illustrated buy a picture of a an appealing blonde four year old child as he is now, and as he was when he was born, headlined Should this child have been left to die?

Which brings me to the point. Doctors do not raise such awkward questions as denying children medical care without consideration. The NHS is under tremendous pressure and there is only a finite amount of money. Before everyone starts foaming at the mouyth and screaming about me wanting to kill children, I would point out that this story is an example of blatant appeal to emotions in the face of cold, hard economics. So, let's throw thousands at caring for pre-term babies - but at the expense of what? Provision of midwives for mothers enduring difficult births?

Illustrating this story with such emotional imagery does nothing for this important debate and the Times should know better.

The Herceptin debate illustrated similar cock-eyed sentiment in the face of the facts. While the headlines screamed 'Breast cancer victim continues herceptin fight', perhaps they could have as easily read 'Medically unqualified voter demands thousands be spent on her while others die on the waiting list.' How many disabled children are denied the physio they need because money is being spent on vote-catching prescription? This man (see from 'Third Patient in....') is not getting the care he needs - and there are no headlines about him.

It is that simple, people - finite resources, and someone has to make choices. Pictures of babies help no-one in this debate.


Blogger The Nameless One said...

It is another case of our media going for the photogenic stories and priortising emotion over rationality. It all reminds me a bit of the furore over Ian Blair's comments about the Soham murders. Whilst he, generally speaking, is not someone I support, I think he was right about that. Our media can, and should, be criticised for giving us biased reporting based around what stories will sell rather than setting the framework for a rational national debate over key issues.

4:05 AM  

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