Dis­pro­por­tion­ate voice

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Mike Master­son

It’s re­mark­able how a ter­mi­nally dis­eased 11-month-old child in Eng­land, his life hardly be­gun, can scream to the world in such a dis­pro­por­tion­ate voice about an im­moral flaw in sin­gle-payer medicine.

Yet that’s ex­actly what lit­tle Char­lie Gard has been do­ing in re­cent weeks as the English courts and an oner­ous med­i­cal bu­reau­cracy in­tent de­cided Char­lie won’t re­ceive lastchance ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ments in the United States that might ease his suf­fer­ing, per­haps even save his life.

The U.S. press has car­ried some sto­ries of the con­tro­versy, yet noth­ing to com­pare with the stream of ac­counts ap­pear­ing in the Bri­tish press. This is a huge story mainly be­cause it shows the planet just how sin­gle-payer health care and the de­ci­sions its bu­reau­cratic com­mit­tees make de­cide the fates of se­ri­ously ill peo­ple, even that of a child.

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the story, an In­ter­net check gives the de­tails of Char­lie’s plight from when his par­ents and com­pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers raised $1.7 mil­lion to help fly their son to the U.S., where doc­tors at New York’s Columbia Pres­by­te­rian Med­i­cal Cen­ter had of­fered re­sources for ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment of his rare mi­to­chon­drial DNA de­ple­tion syn­drome.

The sin­gle- payer ap­proach wouldn’t pay for those treat­ments. But that be­came a moot point when Gard fam­ily raised the nec­es­sary funds to hope­fully save their child. It wasn’t about eco­nomics but con­trol.

As of late this week (there was one fi­nal ap­peal hear­ing pend­ing that hope­fully changed devel­op­ments in Char­lie’s case since my dead­line) the gov­ern­men­tal sys­tems of ju­rispru­dence and med­i­cal care in Great Bri­tain had thrown up a wall of solid re­sis­tance.

There’s bound to be some­thing sadly miss­ing from the hu­man com­pas­sion genes of those who would deny Char­lie and his fam­ily an ex­pense-paid chance, how­ever slight, to try to help im­prove his health and hope­fully ex­tend his life.

Cer­tainly our pres­i­dent and even the pope could em­pathize with Char­lie and his fam­ily. Both lined up solidly to of­fer their help in any way pos­si­ble. Still no budg­ing. It’s rem­i­nis­cent for me of the in­tractable French po­lice­man named Javert in the Broad­way hit Les Mis­er­ables who loudly pro­claims that he is the law and the law is not to be mocked. Well, ob­vi­ously nei­ther is the sin­gle-payer sys­tem.

This un­ac­cept­able and il­log­i­cal de­ci­sion by the English gov­ern­ment is now on dis­play for the world due to the suf­fer­ings of a baby none of us will ever know. In that re­spect, even should lit­tle Char­lie not sur­vive, he will have made an enor­mous dif­fer­ence by hav­ing lived long enough to hope­fully clear our vi­sion.

Char­lie’s plight pro­vides a pen­e­trat­ing look into the cal­lous­ness of sin­gle-payer health care man­aged by lit­tle pub­lic “ser­vants” in big jobs with enor­mous pow­ers.

Some­how, I don’t be­lieve that’s not a health-care pro­gram the vast ma­jor­ity of ra­tio­nal-think­ing adult Arkansans and Amer­i­cans want to see for this na­tion and its chil­dren.

There’s much truth in the adage that those who con­trol health care for the masses also in­vari­ably will con­trol the masses. Char­lie Gard’s life pro­vides the ev­i­dence.

Per­ils of over­think­ing

I watched a friend grind over a 5-foot putt for more than a minute the other day. He walked to sur­vey it from both sides. He took a few prac­tice swings be­fore fi­nally ad­dress­ing the ball. Then, in his in­tel­lec­tu­al­ized at­tempt to guide the ball into the hole, he missed by two inches.

An­other player on the same green fac­ing vir­tu­ally the same putt took a good look, a sin­gle prac­tice swing, kept his head still, and trusted his read enough to stoke con­fi­dently the ball squarely into the hole. He felt it.

On my way home that evening, I saw a squir­rel dart from right to left in front of my car. Safely reach­ing the curb, he sud­denly whirled and zipped back be­neath my wheels. Noth­ing I could do ex­cept re­gret the furry lit­tle fella’s fa­tal in­de­ci­sion.

Over din­ner at a res­tau­rant, an­other friend ag­o­nized be­tween three pos­si­ble meals, in­clud­ing the one he al­ways en­joyed. The other two were new and sounded de­li­cious on the menu. He asked the waiter’s ad­vice and mine. Fi­nally he went with one of the un­trieds and wound up dis­ap­pointed. “Why didn’t I just stick with what I knew was great?” he lamented.

These kinds of ex­pe­ri­ences set me to won­der­ing how much detri­men­tal over­think­ing we all do. I know I’m cer­tainly guilty of fi­nally pulling the trig­ger on a choice that didn’t re­sult in the out­come I’d hoped for. Gut in­stinct and in­tu­ition can prove as ef­fec­tive as any te­dious mind-churn I ap­ply to life’s dilem­mas.

I’ve come to be­lieve at this age how much bet­ter off I’d be to re­flect on a prob­lem or sit­u­a­tion for a rea­son­able pe­riod then get on with do­ing it.

Even when I’m mis­taken in my choices, or mis­judge the con­se­quences, I gen­er­ally fig­ure out a suit­able way to re­cover, ad­just and move on.

Over-an­a­lyz­ing in many in­stances (golf or oth­er­wise) can lead to paral­y­sis gen­er­ated by my over­pow­er­ing de­sire to con­trol an out­come. Ex­ces­sive cog­i­ta­tion may feel nec­es­sary or even wise, but of­ten sim­ply gets in the way of the cor­rect choice.

I’m con­vinced it ben­e­fits us best to sim­plify and trust the lessons and ex­pe­ri­ences we’ve known to make the best pos­si­ble de­ci­sions. Or, you can con­tinue over-an­a­lyz­ing. It’s your life.

Mike Master­son is a long­time Arkansas jour­nal­ist. Email him at mmas­ter­son@arkansason­line.com.

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