Dec 312012

If this article is accurate, it seems the British government has found a solution to dealing with the increasingly expensive problem of non-productive old folks consuming large sums on government-funded health care: kill ’em.

60,000 patients put on death pathway without being told but minister still says controversial end-of-life plan is ‘fantastic’

In short, it appears that the BritGov euthanizes around 60K people per year, in many/most cases without getting the patients consent first. This is of course a Very Bad Thing. But it is also very likely a Pretty Much Inevitable Thing. As birth rates decline and life expectancy increases, societies will have more and more people who have ceased to be productive members of society (i.e. no longer taxpayers), who are now consuming vast amounts of resources (being old and alive while sick in the government hospital is I guess a spendy proposition). Continue the trend lines out far enough and the few actual workers you have will have to pay more than 100% of their income as tax in order to pay all the medical bills being racked up by the giant hospitals jam-packed with pensioners. And the system will simply *have* to collapse.
To me there don’t really seem to be a whole lot of good and/or practical answers to this.
1) Carousel: everybody dies when they reach a specific age. Not going to be popular.
2) Robots: Japan is going through this trouble sooner than most due to their low birth rate, aging population and essentially zero immigration. So they’re hoping that robots will be able to care for their old folks. Whether the Japanese can develop effective robot-nurses faster than they generate old folks is a good question.
3) Deportation: Germany, shockingly enough, is leading the world in getting rid of large numbers of people by shipping them to other countries. What it seems they’re doing is shipping some of their elderly to eastern Europe and east Asia because the cost of care there is far cheaper than in Germany. This seems like a reasonable enough proposition… I’m sure at least some of the elderly are fine with the idea of leaving rather cold Germany for warm Thailand. Additionally, I’m sure the German old folks money spends a lot better in those places than back home; so not only do they get to live a lot better, but they also enrich the local economies. But this would seem only a partial solution, as those regions will themselves eventually catch up in the “generating old folks but not so many young folks” game.
4) Privatization: get the government out of the “paying for everything” business. While this will, in the long run, lead to overall healthier and more prosperous societies, it’ll also lead to some people living longer than others simply because they have more money. And while that is perfectly appropriate, there will be lots and lots of people who will raise a ruckus at the perceived unfairness of it that Rich Guy gets to live to 100, while Poor Guy only makes it to 85.
5) Near Death Star: This would of course be the ultimate and preferred solution… stockpile the pensioners on a vast artificial world, hooked up to life support systems and immersed within virtual worlds of their own choosing. But the technology ain’t quite there yet.
So: given a society that is aging fast, where the life expectancy continues to climb but retirement age doesn’t, where all the latest and most expensive medicines and medical techniques and technologies are *expected* to be employed for as long as possible, where the young are having fewer kids (in no small part because they can’t *afford* kids due to the high tax rates needed to provide for the elderly)… if anyone can come up with a truly practical solution, I’m sure we’d all love to read it.
 Posted by at 12:09 am
  • Ken R

    Keep in mind the Daily Mail is a tabloid and has a history of sensational news stories…

    This is the sort of thing many Brits were worried about back in the 80’s, that as ordinary folks got older their importance to the UK would drop and so would their health care priority.

    • publiusr

      Renew! Renew!

  • Well it could be worse..
    On another topic a new high protean snack bar has been introduced called Soylent green.


    It shouldn’t be to surprizing to see this. In the US states with euthinasis laws have been found to often pressure the sick and elderly to not be a burden to their kids adn others adn get it over with.

    • Anonymous

      Fry: My God, what if the secret ingredient is people?
      Leela: No, there’s already a soda like that – Soylent Cola.
      Fry: Oh. How is it?
      Leela: It varies from person to person.