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Laura Hillier, RIP

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On January 20, 2016, 18-year old Laura Hillier slipped away surrounded by her family while waiting for a stem cell transplant to treat her acute myeloid leukemia.  But Laura did not die because of a lack of bone marrow donors since multiple matching donors had been identified six months earlier.  Rather Laura was on the waiting list for a hospital bed--and enduring debilitating chemotherapy treatments in the meantime.  You see, Laura had the misfortune of living in Canada where the government-run system of "free" medical care has produced an acute shortage of hospital beds for transplant patients.  The local Ontario hospital that was treating Laura performs only 5 stem cell transplants per month and Laura was 33rd on the waiting list when donors were found in July 2015.  Laura's mother attempted to find another hospital to perform the surgery but she discovered waiting lists throughout Ontario as well as throughout Canada.  When Laura's mother brought her daughter's dire situation to the attention of the Ontario Health Minister's office, a spokesman for the Minister reassured:

It is our expectation that hospitals will prioritize patients based on medical urgency, however those decisions are made by each individual hospital. 

Of course Laura's death was totally unnecessary.  It was caused by the shortage created by price controls in conjunction with the arbitrary and irrational  "prioritizing " of patients needs by medical bureaucrats, which is at the core of every system of socialized medical care, whatever name it goes by.  In the humane economy produced by laissez faire capitalism  there are no shortages and no bureaucratic power over who lives and who dies. In such an economy consumers are all-powerful and dictate what goods are produced and in what quantities and qualities. The power of consumers to award profits to or inflict losses and even bankruptcy upon business firms by their spending decisions induce entrepreneurs to vigorously compete with one another to provide those goods and services that are most urgently desired by consumers and to do so at the lowest possible cost. For example, the market for cosmetic surgery in the U.S. is relatively free of government intervention and neither government nor insurance companies pay for cosmetic surgery.  It should be no surprise, then, that in an era when health care costs have risen into the stratosphere Lasik eye surgery has increased in quality and fallen in price from $4000 per eye in 1998 to an average of $2000 per eye in 2013 and one can find prices ranging between $300 and $1,000.  A liposuction procedure that cost over $1,600 in 1992 costs less than $1,000 today and Botox treatments have also plunged in price.  But in stark contrast to socialized medicine, lower prices brought about by free markets are associated with greater abundance, not shortages.  In a purely laissez-faire capitalist economy, the quantity, quality and prices of health care would be determined in the same humane and efficient way: as the spontaneous outcome of the voluntary dealings between consumers (not "patients") and competing physicians, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and medical technology firms. Only such a system will put a permanent end to tragically avoidable deaths like Laura Hillier's.

From Laura's obituary:

 In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Laura to www.beyondkidscancer.ca\laurahillier would be sincerely appreciated by the family. Funds will be used to improve resources for stem cell transplants, furthering Laura’s mission to put an end to wait times.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor emeritus of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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