Saturday, June 14, 2014

Medical research lets the government wedge science

The Medical Research Future Fund is a sham, and medical researchers are falling for it. They already behave as if:
  1. The MRFF exists, and
  2. Medical research will suffer if it doesn't go ahead.
I'll bet Tony, Joe, Kevin and the rest of the toxic sludge of cabinet are in helpless fits of giggles. They've wedged the science community, with medical research distracted by the shiny and defending the fund's sometime-promise, while other sciences are being stripped of money today.

The big medical research charities have sunk either into a self-interested silence (shut up or the government will take it away), except for those that outright support a fund backed by a malicious attack on the poor. Of the 26 charities I've checked, everywhere from mental health to cancer support, none have directly criticised the GP co-payment.

Sorry, medical researchers, but you're backing the wrong horse if you think that “save what you can” is a sensible response to this budget.

Sorry, medical researchers, but you've been set to chase, catch, and defend a chimera. The government's purpose with the MRFF was political, not scientific: to recruit some part of the scientific research community that would defend the atrocious budget. And it's working.

Sorry, medical researchers, but if you support the MRFF you have to answer a very hard question. How many poor people will die because they can't afford the $7 co-payment that funds the blue-sky-sometime research fund that you're eyeing with avarice?

Research that already existed is getting cut, and you're letting yourselves get distracted by a shiny promise, and your distraction is a political tool of the government.

You're trading today's patient welfare againts tomorrow's political promise.

Even a brand-new medical research fund, starting tomorrow, doesn't cure people who are sick today. It will take years to get a result that can be put to a trial, and if the trial works, a couple of years to generate a result and become a treatment.

In the interim – say, the six years from 2014 to 2020 – it will be nothing more than a patent farm hoping to arbitrage what might work into what will generate money for patent owners.

And in the meantime?

People will die.

They'll die because the co-payment parlays into a cascading payment for anyone whose condition is more complex than a single GP visit.

People are going to die because of this government's policies, and the payoff of a medical research fund coming some day if the government keeps its promise isn't going to save them.

Because the whole thing is toxic, and if you believe that a promise to your special interest makes the budget less toxic, you've been tricked. You've been fooled, gulled, wedged: you've been persuaded to argue in favour of an attack on people who have no defence, because you've been given a promise by proven liars.

And you believe them, because your hope is louder than the whisper of good sense.

I will march against your Medical Research Future Fund because it's a whitewash designed to paint a patina of respectability on an odious impost on the poor. And no, I won't worry that someone might die in 2030 because I marched. Today's poor and sick need universal healthcare more than they need the promise of a liar.

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