Alexander Waugh

The Poisoned Chalice of Choice

THE BEST WAY to win votes – or so both sides of the House keep assuring themselves – is to offer the electorate more ‘choice’. ‘So where would vou like to have your heart op, Terrence? Northampton General gets three stars for its visitors’ toilets, you know.’ ‘Yes. but see this, the nurses’ uniforms at the Bristol Infirmary are absolutely gorgeous.’ ‘Sure, but the one in Newcastle has leather armchairs in Reception PLUS hard-backs for children.’ Of course none of us has the faintest idea how to choose the best heart hospital in Britain, how to discern which has the most efficient cardio-scanner. which the cleanest forceps or the soberest surgeons. We must simply rely on the opinions of our doctors, whose minds will be made up by nods, winks, pushy reps, and misleading statistics.

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