Health care has been in decline for more than half a century.
Moreover, despite all the advances in technology, the health care available in the future will not be as good as it was 50 years ago.
Indeed, I’d go further; having been writing about doctors, hospitals and medical treatments for many decades, I am now convinced that the majority of patients today are receiving worse treatment than was available in the 1950s.
There are some exceptions, of course. The very few patients who have had successful transplant surgery could argue, accurately, that back in the 1950s they would have died. And there are one or two new drugs available that are life-saving.
But those are exceptions. I’m talking about the quality of medical care available for 99% of patients, 99% of the time.
Doubters will, of course, claim that life expectation today is much greater than it was and that, therefore, medical care must have improved.
This is a fallacious argument.
If you look at the figures it is clear that life expectation rose over a century ago when the number of babies and infants dying fell considerably. A little over a century ago it was commonplace for a woman to have half a dozen babies but for only two of them to survive. It was these infant deaths which lowered life expectation figures. If lots of babies die before they are one-year-old then the average life expectation is brought down dramatically. If one person dies at birth, and another dies at 100, their average life expectancy will be 50 years. But if most babies survive then the average life expectation rises equally dramatically. Back in Victorian times, and even earlier, humans who survived infancy and childhood commonly lived into their 70s, 80s and beyond.
The absence of relatively clean drinking water, and proper sewage systems, meant that serious infections were big killers in the 19th century. And it was infectious diseases such as cholera which meant that infant mortality figures were appallingly high. The death rates fell notably when fairly clean, uncontaminated drinking water supplies were introduced and proper facilities built for dealing with sewage.
In the early part of the 20th century millions of people lived in damp, cramped conditions and had very little decent food to eat. Drug companies, and their supporters, like to claim that their products are responsible for improved life expectation but the figures prove that to be a falsehood. Drugs have changed our lives in many ways but, with the probable exception of antibiotics such as penicillin, first introduced just in time for the Second World War, they have not had a major impact and it is not difficult to argue that many of the preparations put on the market have done considerably more harm than good. It is, for example, difficult to claim that benzodiazepine tranquillisers have done anything to improve the quality of human life. Prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and some painkillers are the causes of the biggest dependency problem in the world.