FAO Andrew Lansley – My Living Will
First, let me apologise for writing to you at this very hectic time.
I understand that you are quite, quite busy dismantling the National Health Service and gift-wrapping its various component parts as delightful Christmas presents for major personal and Tory party donors. I also know that you are averse, almost allergic, to having any duties whatsoever as Secretary of State for Health to provide health services; but you are still in charge, as things stand, so hear me out.
I read a story yesterday which chilled me more profoundly than liquid nitrogen does a Heston Blumenthal pea mousse. Apparently, next to many hospital beds there is now a television monitor. The monitor carries a personal message from you to me; to everyone. Your face will appear next to me, at my most vulnerable, and say:
“Hello, I’m Andrew Lansley, the health secretary. I just want to take a few moments to say that your care while you’re here in hospital really matters to me. I hope it’s as good quality care as we can possibly make it and I do hope you’ll join me in thanking all the staff who are looking after you while you’re here.”
This message will repeat on a loop every three to four minutes. I note that this “service” is provided by a private company and is nauseatingly called Hospedia. Short of privately employed nurses dropping saline into my eyes while Beethoven’s Ninth plays over a tannoy, this is Clockwork Orange.
Naturally, I have choices – you are all about choices, aren’t you Andrew? I can shut you up by registering with the service and paying upwards of a fiver a day to gain access to other TV and internet services. I must say this seems a small price to pay. Here is the fly in the generic ointment, however: if I am lucky enough to survive a few more years of your government’s miserable administration, who knows whether I will be able to afford even five pence a day?
And even if I can afford it, there is always the risk that others in the ward – poorer or sicker than me – might not. The inevitable result is your voice echoing through the ward, like the aural equivalent of Chinese drip torture; twenty times an hour, four hundred and eighty times a day, three thousand three hundred and sixty times a week. Telling me you care; whether I care to hear it or not.
I am relatively healthy now, but the future is uncertain. And so, with my faculties intact, I make my request to you; my living will: If you will not allow me to be sick in peace and dignity, at least let me go. I don’t want to be a burden on the taxpayer anyway, which is increasingly how you make sick people feel. And while you’re at it, you may as well harvest my organs and help your deficit reduction policy by auctioning them to the highest bidder. I mean, of course, to “any willing provider”.
You think I am over-reacting. My family might think the same, if the time comes. But believe me – I know myself. With you as my own, personal, terrifying Florence Nightmaregale my health would inevitably deteriorate. Even a foot corn would prove fatal. Having to look at your smug, I-know-best-what’s-best-for-you face even for a brief hour on Question Time reduced me to a gibbering wreck. And that was when I was feeling tip-top.
What would several days of feeling helpless and low, while having to listen to you do to me? Being reminded every three minutes of what this Monty Python sketch of a Coalition is doing to a service paid for by three generations and held in trust for the next? How long before I ended up like the creature at the end of a Cronenberg horror flick – dragging myself across the floor away from that monitor, burbling like a blocked sink, my pathetic, bulging eyes begging for ultimate mercy?
So, put a pillow over my face and press hard. Turn off the machines keeping me your captive audience. Pop the morphine clicker in my hand, turn the light off and close the door. Do it, because YOU CARE.