The real health crisis - we’re all scared of death
The Rudd Government’s latest health blueprint is a well-intentioned but ultimately futile attempt to manage a system that has become the unwitting tool of our quest for immortality.
No matter how well the system is managed, it will remain unsustainable so long as we expect it to keep us alive way after we have passed our personal use-by date.
As we await the barrage of Baby Boomers to enter old age and demand access to the life-sustaining machines that go ‘beep’, we should draw inspiration from the 1970s classic Logan’s Run and accept death is part of the deal.
For those who weren’t around in the seventies (and you are my target audience here), Logan’s Run was a sci-fi classic (with a spin-off TV series) about an idyllic world where everyone was young, attractive and promiscuous - like Bondi, only in the 23rd century.
The only catch was that when you hit the age of 30 you were surplus to requirements, a drain on the resources of the State and you would be eradicated by the sandman.
When Logan hit D-Day he decided this was not such a good idea and took off, hence the run, into an unknown that only ended when he reached Peter Ustinov
I loved the show, although at the time I could never work out why Logan was the hero. Surely, he had played the game – and after all, 30 was seriously old!
I think of Logan when I think of the demographic wave that is about to hit our health system, the Baby Boomers who have spent their lives maximising welfare and minimising tax.
Now if you are a Boomer, please don’t take this personally, but on an abstract level you are about to become a massive drain on the rest of the society.
And it’s not just the pension, because of medical advances you are not going to have just a few years of lawn bowls: you are going to be around FOREVER.
And when your bodies start breaking down you are going to expect the health system to keep you alive. You will demand it deliver and, as has been the case for the rest of your existence, you will have the voting bloc to get the results you want.
Not content with heart surgery to unclog your arteries and quantum advances in the management of cancer, chances are the health system will be providing treatments that will keep you hanging on well into your second century.
And having frittered away your superannuation by the time you are eighty, every extra year will come straight out of social security and health budgets.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want you to die; I just think that the onus is on you to explain why we should keep you alive after your body has packed it in.
I think of my Nanna. She is 101 years old She is diabetic. Most of her stomach has been removed so she has to eight about 12 tiny meals each day. She is deaf. Most days she is miserable. She is not going anywhere.
I think she largely gets through each day out of a sense of routine and duty; prompted mainly by the fact that she has medications that keep her going.
Unlike Logan’s Run, I am not advocating euthanasia – personally I have no problem with Phillip Nietschke, but that is a different argument.
What I want to question is whether a health system should really be focussed on extending life – rather than assisting us maximise the enjoyment of the time we have.
To this end, I submit my first entry in the Punch’s archive of Policy Ideas that Make Sense On Paper But Will Never Work in the Real World.
It is based on basic user-pay principles, delivered via the tax system and called simply the Life Extension Tax or LET.
Under the LET, citizens would have a series of options on how they would access the health system.
Base Life Option would provide full health cover up until the average age of death. (base tax rate)
Base Life plus Ten option would give you an extra ten years during which you could hook-up to the latest technologies to get chugging along. (Base rate plus 10 per cent)
God Complex Option would give you access to full life-extending technologies all the way into your centurion years (a 25 per cent premium).
I’m Too Bad To Meet My Maker – God Complex plus cryogenics allowing you to while away your afterlife in a freezer.
The catch? You would choose your level of coverage of the age of 30, giving you the opportunity to actually fund the research and hardware that will prolong your existence up front.
Just like Logan, the LET scheme will let you control your exit date. Me? I’m sticking to the Base Rate – I’ve always been cheap and have no desire to see out my days in nappies.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…