I am both angry and upset at the British government and others on an international scale. It seems the British government has descended into an ‘austerity on steroids’ plan which threatens to erode basic human rights.
Plans to strip the right to free prescriptions and dental treatment from benefits claimants who don’t look for work is disgraceful. People would also lose access to cheaper mobile phone packages, help from energy suppliers, funeral costs and travel discount schemes.
Taking this path has very sad consequences and these go against what is considered human and just according to not only international law, but principles outlined by major forms of faith or religious belief. Diwali has just happened and Christmas is around the corner. These are times when we should also think of others.
Tears on a statue
It was recently reported that a statue of our lady in Mexico had tears running down her face. The area of Colima is plagued with violence from gangs. Residents hailed this as a miracle. Whether you are religious or not, it is not surprising. The world is full of disasters and wars at the moment – Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, violence on the streets motivated by hatred, crime and other sources. This is a warning message to us in some way that enough is enough.
Responses to the Rwanda plan and Rishi Sunak putting the idea of leaving the ECHR on the table prompted a series of angry letters in Metro on Friday 17 November. One reader described the government’s policies and actions as ludicrous “brain farts” at the expense of the taxpayer. Senior medical organisations, such as the BMA, and figures in politics have already blasted Rishi Sunak’s team for this assault on basic human rights.
Tase Oputu, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, said the society was “deeply concerned” about the inequalities that already exist in relation to prescription charges and access to medicine. Her response is fitting:
“No one should be faced with a financial barrier to getting the medicines they need, regardless of their employment status.”
“Being unable to afford your medicines leads to poor health, lost productivity, and costly and avoidable hospital admissions.”
Michael Heseltine said ministers should not “use the health service as a sanction”.
Doctors’ leaders also hit out, accusing the government of holding people’s health “to ransom”. Stephen Dorrell, former health secretary, mentioned the plans could be subject to legal challenge.
Who foots the bill for that? The taxpayer once again after we have already funded legal fees for Boris Johnson’s partygate defence. Those counterproductive brain farts are getting expensive.
How will Rishi and his team assess the incapacity to work? With an AI module on a website? With dedicated qualified advisors and consultants? The personal touch is vital here.
Green party candidate, Nick Morphet, raised the idea that everyone should have a basic universal income at the hustings in 2019. This is a good point. If there are sufficient funds to waste money on PPE, spend millions on barges, brain farts or anything else, surely if we are human, there are funds which could be re-directed to those who need it most and the services on which they rely?
Another great idea would be for parliament to force Rishi Sunak into an early general election. The sooner the brain farts are stopped the better.
Hospital detention, the worst detention of all: Ethel’s story
One of the reasons I am disgusted with the UK government is connected with a situation I heard about in my own family recently. I learned that a close relative of the partner of one of my family is in a terrible situation. The lady’s name is Ethel. She is a resident of Papua New Guinea, but her son studies in Australia where he is completing high school education. Ethel, who is 47, developed breast cancer years ago and fought hard against it. The cancer went into remission. Very sadly it came back recently and has affected her liver. There was no treatment for it in PNG, so Ethel had to fly to the Philippines.
The hospital found other problems and the bills for her treatment increased. The hospital would not allow Ethel to leave and detained her, for a time without treatment, unless she paid the bills.
After some pressure, they have at least started to treat her cancer again, but her situation is difficult. She would like to spend time with her family, but if she is detained, that won’t be possible. This is an awful situation. You can donate to the crowdfunder here,
I looked up the topic of hospital detention and sadly found this does happen, not only in the Philippines, but in India and elsewhere. It was lawful in the Philippines if the patient was treated in a private room, or something that can look like a room, such as an area cordoned off by curtains in a ward. Private rooms were a grey area.
However, the Republic Act (RA) 9439, or the Act Prohibiting the Detention of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics on Grounds of Non-payment of Hospital Bills or Medical Expenses, ensures that patients are not made prisoners by hospitals for financial reasons.
Under the law, it is illegal for any public or private hospital or medical clinic to detain a patient who still has outstanding hospital fees. Detention occurs when a fully or partially recovered patient, not confined in a private room, has already been issued a discharge order, or has expressed his intention to leave the hospital, but is kept from doing so despite his execution of a promissory note for his unpaid obligations.
But who has assets to cover huge bills? Not everyone. Some sort of liability note must be signed by the patient or another person to grant release.
In 2019, Senator Risa Hontiveros tabled Senate Bill 1937, to expand the coverage of non-detention to recovering patients in private rooms, and will increase penalties against erring medical institutions and officers to the tune of up to six years of imprisonment, a fine of up to P1,000,000, and even revocation of hospital licenses.
(Source, blog by Nilo T. Divina, Managing Partner, DivinaLaw [email protected] )
However, at a time when they are most vulnerable and time is precious, human beings who are already suffering are made to go through legal hoops. This is not fair. I hope someone can help Ethel and her family.
Nigeria is another country which practises this violation of human rights. It is often women who suffer most, such as mothers who require emergency surgery when they are unable to give birth naturally. Hospitals separate mothers from babies, who are kept hostage, and there was a very sad case of a mother who passed away of hospital acquired pneumonia and sepsis.
The World Health Organisation states it is necessary to raise public awareness on the issue of hospital detention and that the practice is illegal. One challenge human rights groups face is that hospital detentions are rarely recorded and this exacerbates the problem.
Patients suffer not only from their illnesses, but the detention triggers psychological trauma because of fear, the detention itself and the separation from family members
Lessons for governments
There are many lessons to be learned here for the British government and others. The situation here has not degenerated into the terrible circumstances faced by those in the case studies on hospital detention. However, their new policies are still cruel.
The world not only needs solutions to conflict and climate change. It really is time to stop fighting and put more effort into working together to help the sick and the impoverished at home and on a worldwide scale. Human rights law has a place in every country and in and around international borders. Governments should never overrule it or abandon human rights conventions. Whether or not you believe in God, it is not surprising that a statue in Mexico is shedding tears. Britain and the rest of the world need a massive increase in compassion, not hardship.