Motor neurone disease – the politics

Having mentioned in a previous post the economics and power of motor neurone disease, I have an addition to make. Sure, we know politics and economics have an interest in healthcare but when it becomes more individualised and a political leader intervenes in an act of partisanship as happened recently, it behoves the rest of us in the civil sphere to object.

A friend tried to have her carer’s leave sanctioned so she can care for her mother, terminally ill with motor neurone disease. The HSE obstructed her application in explaining it would be about 6 weeks before the girl would be sanctioned for her entitled leave. She rang the Taoiseach’s constituency office to complain. First thing next morning her leave was sanctioned!!! Why the sudden change of mind? Why the sudden flush of efficiency? The answer could be hinted at in the Sunday Independent that same week. On page 2 the newspaper informed us that the Taoiseach had joined a charity cycle to Achill for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. He could hardly have been gaining publicity from motor neurone disease when one of his constituents was terminally ill with it yet denied her right to care available to Irish residents equally.

He will eventually lose a constituent but he might gain a couple of votes. It’s just a pity peoples’ entitlement to carers’ leave is a political decision rather than a socio-medical one.

For the effect of an economics of austerity has on health look at Stuckler’s and Basu’s The Body Economic:

This highly significant new book, based on the authors’ own ground-breaking research, looks at the daily lives of people affected by financial crisis, from the Great Depression of the 1930s, to post-communist Russia, to the US foreclosure crisis of the late 2000s. Why, it asks, did Sweden experience a fall in suicides during its banking crisis? What triggered a mosquito-borne epidemic in California in 2007? What caused 10 million Russian men to ‘disappear’ in the 1990s? Why is Greece experiencing rocketing HIV rates? And how did the health of Americans actually improve during the catastrophic crisis of the 1930s? The conclusions it draws are both surprising and compelling: remarkably, when faced with similar crises, the health of some societies – like Iceland – improves, while that of others, such as Greece, deteriorates. Even amid the worst economic disasters, negative public health effects are not inevitable: it’s how communities respond to challenges of debt and market turmoil that counts.

The Body Economic puts forward a radical proposition. Austerity, it argues, is seriously bad for your health. We can prevent financial crises from becoming epidemics, but to do so, we must acknowledge what the hard data tells us: that, throughout history, there is a causal link between the strength of a community’s health and its social protection systems. Now and for generations to come, our commitment to the building of fairer, more equal societies will determine the health of our body economic.

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