There is a psychological fact that prevents a sensible economic solution to the problem of paying for social care. It is that people in the UK do not think it right that the value of their house should be frittered away in paying for a pretty pointless existence in a care home. Maybe that care should be paid for out of their assets, maybe not. The fact is that they think it wrong that the value of their house – in most cases their only substantial asset – should disappear needlessly without much being gained in return. They think that the wealth they had hoped to pass on to their children should not be taken away needlessly.
They have a point. A few years in a care home prolongs the end of their lives, but it doesn’t do much else, except drain away their wealth. Kingsley Amis famously said, “No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare.” I don’t know why Weston-super-Mare came in for such stick, but there was a point to his observation. What is the value in a life they see as empty of pleasure, empty of meaning? Mrs. May’s advisor, Nick Timothy, inserted into her manifesto a threat to take away people’s homes to pay for such care, and many showed they preferred Jeremy Corbyn to that happening. Nick Timothy was fired, though some think he should have been burned at the stake for that piece of stupidity.
We should give people the choice. If they prefer to end their life quickly and painlessly and pass substantial wealth to their heirs, we should let them do it. If they prefer to spend what they have on what they see as a valueless existence to delay the inevitable end, we should allow them that alternative. If they were given that choice, polls suggest that the great majority would choose a dignified euthanasia, rather than transfer their money to care home personnel instead of to their children.
The solution to meeting care home costs might be difficult and complicated, as well as expensive. But it should incorporate that choice, and allow people to choose a dignified exit that passes on an inheritance to their heirs. Society should facilitate that choice instead of preventing it.