a word from our betters
James Taranto cites a 2007 address made in Berkeley by Clinton's Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Reich gave the speech which he believed a Democratic presidential candidate should make, were he free to speak his mind on the matter of health care:
"Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you, and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health-care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. [laughter] That's true, and what I'm going to do is I am going to try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people. But that means you -- particularly you young people, particularly you young, healthy people -- you're going to have to pay more. [applause] Thank you.
"And by the way, we are going to have to -- if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive, so we're going to let you die.
Who is this "we" with the power of life and death? The patients? No. The medical profession? No. "We" refers to policy wonks in the executive branch: in short, the party apparatchiks. They are the "we" who, when they deem it too expensive to treat you, will let you die.
Remember the scare about government controlled health care erecting Death Panels? Ridiculous. There will be no Death Panels. They will be called Resource Allocation Committees, and when the "resources" in question become too pricey, "we" shall decide whether yours is a life worthy of living.
Now who can object to that?
P.S. Reich belongs to a political party that refuses to ban partial birth abortion on the grounds that it permits government restriction of medical treatment options. "We" mustn't interfere.
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Posted by: sparch -
Oct. 16, 2009 10:41 AM ET USA
It's the double speak. It doesn't matter if you call them resouce allocation committees or death panels, they will function to assess who will be treated and who will not. I have read that there will be an increase of cancer deaths of over 2 million per year if these committees are established. People will not be able to get the care they need in a timely fashion. Instead of treatment at teh beginning of cancer, it will not come till the end and it then be too late for many.
Posted by: Chestertonian -
Oct. 16, 2009 3:48 AM ET USA
There doesn't need to be a policy to allow nature to take it's course; there IS a policy--or there was until recently. It was a determination made between doctor and patient, or patient's family, about whether extrordinary means should be used, or whether continuing food/water was possible when bodily systems started to shut down as death approached. This new policy will be much worse than insurance companies making medical decisions for us; think Weimar Germany in the 30's; history repeats.
Posted by: Ken -
Oct. 16, 2009 3:05 AM ET USA
k9annie - You've missed the whole point of this essay. Re-read the 2nd paragraph of Reich's quote: "we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for THE LAST COUPLE YEARS of your life..." So my 84-year-old father, who spent 3 years away from home fighting WWII, and who is in frail health with heart problems, kidney problems, and slow-growth lieukemia will be told, "No drugs for you to live out the remaining years of your life in relative comfort. Go die somewhere."
Posted by: unum -
Oct. 15, 2009 6:27 PM ET USA
There is another course of treatment at end of life, and it is called palliative care or making the patient comfortable. Many patients choose this option when they select hospice care instead of aggressive treatment of a terminal disease. Both of my parents did. But, Reich is talking about the government making the choice for palliative care instead of the patient. That is called killing a patient to save money, and that is what our nation is facing if the government controls health care.
Posted by: k9annie -
Oct. 15, 2009 4:08 PM ET USA
The hard truth is that at some point, there needs to be a policy to allow nature to take its course. Spending every last dollar to enable a dying person one more day may sink any health care system. That being said, allowing nature to take its course is not the same as starving someone to death, or more deliberately, causing someone to die. I do not want to be on the policy committee.