Great Moments in Nationalized Health Care


A surgeon claims that the managers of a London hospital wanted him to use a dessert spoon on a hip replacement patient instead of an actual—hence more costly—piece of medical equipment.

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  1. Look at it another way and it’s a case of a cost-minded individual looking for innovative ways to lower the cost of healthcare. Not everyday you see a government employee so concerned about how much the taxpayers are being forced to pay for a service. 🙂

  2. I’m with Madog on this one…a dessert spoon, properly sterilized, is no more or less intrinsically harmful or helpful in surgery than a surgical instrument. (This assumes the dessert spoon is made of non-reactive material, of course!) What really matters is the skill of the person manipulating it.

    Besides, if an instrument could be hypothetically replaced with a spoon, then what it is used for can’t be all that complicated or require much precision in the first place.

    If I was a UK taxpayer footing the bill, I’d be thrilled that they were trying to keep costs down.

  3. Hmm.

    “curette, a sharp-edged, spoon-shaped tool he should have had to scrape cartilage and damaged bone from the hip socket”

    Spoon: smooth-edged, spoon-shaped tool designed not to scrape one’s mouth.

    Cost saving substitute? Yes. Good substitute? Not so much.

    And, how much cartilage do they scrape at that hospital? I’d imagine enough that they could amortize the $238 instrument expense. . . .

  4. Great moments in US healthcare: 17 year old girl gets
    heart/lung transplant, but – OOPS – the organs have the
    wrong blood type. Despite being correctly labeled, they’re
    implanted anyway.

    Happy? Ending: they’ve replaced the bad organs with good ones in another transplant operation, after a CAT scan determined that she probably hadn’t suffered brain damage from the first organs.

    Problems: Someone of the correct blood type might have died because they didn’t get those organs. Also, who’s paying for the second heart/lung transplant?

  5. I am sure a steak knife is just about as effective a replacement for a scalpel. If I was the doctor I would have said, “If you have ever watched Oz on HBO, you may have a pretty good idea what I am going to do with that spoon.”

  6. Jon,

    I think you ought to differentiate between tragic and sensationalized physician mistakes, which are made (relatively) equally on both sides of the ocean, and institutionalized flaws, which are widespread in the UK. For more on the NHS and its many failings:,8145,390094,00.html

    It’s interesting that you asked who is paying for Jesica Santillan’s operation, since the story is an example of the miracle of modern capitalist societies. Jesica is Mexican, and her parents three years ago moved to the United States in order to receive a heart and lung transplant to cure her restrictive cardiomyopathy. Businessman from around their adopted home of Franklin County, North Carolina, launched the Jesica?s Hope Chest, Inc., in order to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary for the complicated procedure. The charity is now established to help Jesica and many more critically ill children. For more on the Jesica?s Hope Chest:

  7. “It’s interesting that you asked who is paying for Jesica Santillan’s operation, since the story is an example of the miracle of modern capitalist societies”

    Actually, I asked who’s paying for the *second* operation. The one to try to fix the mistake in the first operation. Is the hospital paying for it?

    Not that it helped, having left the girl a vegetable.

  8. Maybe I should become a surgeon in the UK. I never know which spoon to use for what, or which fork is the salad fork vs. the dinner fork. I’d just use the spoon everyone else uses.

  9. My name is Saad Sultan from Saudi Arabia . I need your help to pay an instrument of ozon therapy .Please anser me as soon as you can.

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