Our British cousins are having a debate about the medical inhumanity that can pop up anywhere but often comes with socialized medicine.
Last month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke of the “normalisation of cruelty” in poor hospitals, with patients subjected to coldness, resentment, indifference, and even contempt. Labour Party Member of Parliament Ann Clwyd described how Owen Roberts, her husband of 49 years, ‘died like a battery hen” in October at the University Hospital of Wales.
Other reports have circulated of dying patients screaming for water. Prince Charles hopped into the debate last week by pointing out, in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, a “crisis in caring.” He wants to “enhance those age-old qualities of human kindness and compassion” and “to restore urgently a climate of care and compassion at the heart of our health services.”
Clwyd said she had expected that her husband, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, would be accorded care and kindness, but that did not happen: “Owen was a tall man, 6-feet 2-inches, and he died cramped and squashed against the bars of his bed like a battery hen. He had an oxygen mask that didn’t fit properly and cut into his chin. When I asked for a better fitting one, they said, ‘Oh, we don’t think so.’”
When her husband caught pneumonia in the hospital, she added, “Almost every request I made was ignored or dismissed. His lips were very dry and I couldn’t understand why nobody was moistening them. I used my own lip salve on them. … I saw a nurse in the corridor and asked her why my husband wasn’t in intensive care. She just said, ‘There are lots worse than him,’ and walked on.”