Those liberal media outlets who view their mission as advancing the proposition that a single payer nationalized health care system is superior to the American system (ahem, Vox) are often guilty of appealing to positive anecdotes about the care provided in nations like Canada and England in order to make their case. But in the war of dueling anecdotes, there is ammunition available to both sides of the debate.
The latest Orwellian horror emerging from a national health care system comes out of Britain, and it is a doozy. A U.K. couple was recently arrested after they pulled their 5-year-old son, who is struggling with a terminal brain tumor, out of a British hospital. The couple fled with their son to France and later Spain in the desperate search for a specific therapy for their dying son.
In a video message taped just hours before his arrest in Spain, Brett King, the father of cancer-stricken Ashya King, issued an emotional plea for care for his son. He noted that, while their son’s tumor had been removed, the Southampton hospital where they received treatment refused to honor the Kings’ request for proton beam therapy that would have to be performed outside the country. British National Health Service approved only post-surgical radiation treatment for Ashya, in spite of the fact that King insisted that he would pay for expensive and experimental therapy with his own funds.
The family fled when King said that the NHS doctors threatened to impose a restraining order on him which would have prevented him from seeing his dying son. “They also told him that his Internet research was flawed, and that he should not consult the Internet but instead trust the NHS doctors at face value,” The Daily Beast reported.
“We couldn’t take it any more, the not knowing and not being able to question anything in fear that they say, ‘Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. King, emergency protection order, you’re no longer allowed in the ward,’” King said while cradling his son in a video plea. “Under that stress, our son has grade four brain tumor, we couldn’t discuss or question them at all in fear that our son would be in that ward all day long by himself without his parents being able to come in. We couldn’t be under that system any more.”
A European manhunt ensued and the Kings were both arrested. The U.K. suggested the couple could face charges of “cruelty.”
“All of our efforts resulted from explicit medical advice that Ashya’s life was in danger,” Britain’s Hampshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Chris Shead told reporters.
Facing a significant backlash after their weekend arrest and extradition back to England, Brett and his wife, Naghmeh King, were informed on Tuesday that the U.K. would decline to charge them with neglect or kidnapping as a result of their attempt at seeking life-saving care for their son.
“I welcome the prosecution against Ashya King’s parents being dropped,” Prime Minster David Cameron wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “It’s important this little boy gets treatment and the love of his family.”
This is a grotesque tale, but it is also a familiar one. It was only King’s savvy attempt to turn his son’s struggles into an international cause célèbre that resulted in the ability to escape prosecution and draw the attention of the prime minister. Many more anonymous British care-seekers are not so lucky.
For all those who lament that the private insurance model leaves too many Americans hostages to substandard care, it does not seek to “solve” that problem by dooming everyone else to sharing the same fate.