Is this our future?

Dr Vernon Coleman

The following essay is taken from Vernon Colemanís book called `The Health Scandalí which was published in 1988. The essay predicts what Dr Coleman felt was likely to happen by the year 2020. Read it to see how much he got right. And remember this was written 36 years ago.

This is our future
If none of the scandals I have described earlier in this book is opposed or controlled, the consequences will be horrendous. It could break down society completely.

Members of the shrinking able-bodied, employed community will rebel against the enormous burden they are forced to carry. There will be a growth in the black 'cash' economy. More and more people will voluntarily choose not to work but to accept social-security payments. The number of people working in productive jobs will shrink. And the pressure on the remaining workers will become intolerable. They will either abandon their burdens or they will demand enormous financial compensation. Inflation will become rife. The rift between the two Britains - the north and the south, the unemployed and the employed - will become wider and wider. The split between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' will reach new levels of unacceptability.

There will be a resurgence of Luddism with angry mobs smashing computers. And there will be a sharper than ever rift between those who receive social-security payments and those who hand them out. Men and women on both sides of the counter will be angry and bitter.

Taxes will rise to unacceptable levels. The social and medical services will break down completely. The western civilization that we know could collapse far more speedily and dramatically than the Roman Empire fell over a thousand years ago. No 'developed' country will escape the consequences, but it will be in Britain, where welfarism has reached a peak, that the problems will be at their worst.

There will be anger, frustration and bitterness. Society will break down into many different factions. There will be a rift between those who are public employees and those who are private employees- the former having total job security and the latter having no such security. There will be a rift between the young and the old with the old demanding better pensions and, by virtue of their very numbers, having enough political clout to ensure that they get exactly what they want. In a country where anything up to half the electorate are receiving pensions the political clout of the retired will be enormous. And in 2020 the eighty-year-olds will be members of the rock'n'roll generation - vocal and forceful. As the young see the elderly living better and better they will find their own falling standards of living unacceptable.

I fear that the rift between the able-bodied and the disabled will widen too. There will be resentment and bitterness and the shrinking able-bodied community will speak out openly against the disabled, the frail and the elderly. Hidden, unspoken fears will explode into the open. The able-bodied will complain about having to pay for the disabled. The employed will object to supporting the unemployed. The elderly will push aside the handicapped in the shops.

The result of all this will be that the moral climate of the country will change. People will demand action that we today would consider barbaric. There will be protests about hospital beds being blocked by the elderly, and chronically sick. There will be anger about the expenditure of money on performing surgery to save the congenitally deformed or the seriously injured. There will be calls for euthanasia to be legalized. Acceptable, humane manslaughter will be a legal defence in 'murder' cases. Unacceptable solutions will suddenly not only become acceptable but will become essential. Medical help will be available only to those who have power or who can show that they deserve it. Smokers will be denied medical help when they get bronchitis. Drinkers will have to accept death when they develop liver diseases. Political extremists will call for breeding licences for humans. Would-be parents carrying genetic traits of diseases such as diabetes will not be allowed to have children.

You may scoff and say that none of this could happen in our society. But it is already happening.

Drug addicts don't always get proper medical help. Smokers have been turned away by doctors and hospitals. Kidney transplants are performed only on patients with jobs, families and prospects. More and more people are calling for euthanasia to be legalized and legitimized. There is already a lack of compassion for the elderly, the disabled and the sick. And there is growing resentment against those who rely on social security benefits of any kind.

In one generation we have turned our society upside-down. We have gone from a baby boom to a situation where the fastest growing segment of the population is people over the age of seventy-five. The modern miracle technologies keep sicker and sicker patients alive longer and longer. Medicine has lost touch with reality; doctors have lost touch with patients. Aims and ambitions are distorted and confused.

I believe that the evidence shows that by the time we reach the year 2020 it will be too late to do anything to prevent the holocaust. Our society will be so weakened and so divided that recovery will be impossible.

In Britain one-third of the population will have reached retirement age. And at least one-half of the remaining adults will be chronic invalids, requiring permanent care and attention. Every single healthy adult in Britain - and elsewhere in the developed world - will be working to support three people and will have the physical responsibility of caring for three people too.

The year 2020 is significant because I estimate that that is the year when the number of disabled and dependent individuals in Britain will exceed the number of able-bodied individuals. And if that sounds unlikely then let me just remind you that today, on average, one-third of the population of any developed country will have such poor health that their ability to work or look after themselves will be seriously affected.

In the past threats to the survival of the human race have always come from outside. We have been threatened by infectious diseases. Or by starvation due to failing crops. Always we have been threatened by problems which we could counteract by trusting our scientists to work together and come up with a solution.

When we were threatened with starvation our scientists found new ways of harvesting food. And to protect us from future problems they developed better agricultural techniques. When we were threatened by infection our scientists developed better water supplies, better sewage disposal, quarantine, vaccination, and antibiotics.

This time the difference is that it is our scientists who have helped to produce the problems we face. The aims and aspirations of medical scientists once dedicated to eradicating disease have been distorted by professional ambitions and commercial forces.

In the past the most powerful forces in our society have always combined to oppose any threats from outside. Today the most powerful forces in our society - science and commerce - are conspiring to make things worse. The very people whom we might expect to help us deal with our problems have (perhaps because they don't understand what is happening) dedicated their lives to making the problems worse. Our medical scientists are so preoccupied with finding solutions to today's immediate problems that they have failed to understand the enormity of the dilemma in front of us. And the most powerful forces in commerce are so preoccupied with making profits for today that they have failed to see that they are helping to ensure their own eventual destruction. If we do not take drastic action now, then all the evidence suggests that within our lifetime civilization will end. Forever.

For the first time in history the size of the population needing care and attention will exceed the size of the population fit enough to do the work and do the looking after. And the situation will then rapidly get worse and worse as each month passes.

Genetic influences will ensure that diseases become more and more common. The majority of the population will be disabled by disorders such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, arthritis and schizophrenia. We will have defied nature and ensured the survival of the sickest.

The pressure on the healthy individuals who remain will be tremendous. Hospitals and nursing homes will be quite unable to cope with the demands for full time nursing care. In a household consisting of two healthy parents and two healthy children there will be at least four physically dependent relatives.

Ghettoes will spring up where the disabled and the chronically sick will be left to care for themselves and for one another.

But there are things which we can do now, and in the next decade, which will postpone the point at which the worst will happen and therefore give us a chance to find a more permanent solution to the problems I have outlined. But there isn't a day to waste. We must take action now if we want to avoid the holocaust.

This essay was taken from `The Health Scandalí by Vernon Coleman which was first published in 1988. If you want to read more, `The Health Scandalí is available as a new paperback via the bookshop on

Copyright Vernon Coleman April 2024