Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

When junk mail isn’t junk: The Life Issues Institute

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 14, 2009

Recently I took note of some unsolicited mail, a copy of the October issue of Life Issues Connector from the Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati. The President and Publisher is the well-known pro-life physician, John Willke, so I decided to resist my first impulse and read the newsletter.

Among several interesting issues addressed in the lead article, “A Closer Look at the Healthcare Situation”, is the common claim that, wherever it has been implemented, nationalized health care works better than the current system in America. Now, of course, there are all kinds of ways to measure the effectiveness of health care. If we focus on the 15% of Americans who lack health care insurance, for example, it would be hard to argue that a nationalized system wouldn’t be better for them. Nonetheless, Dr. Willke presents some interesting facts concerning other indicators.

For all cancers, a comparison of European and American five-year survival rates shows that 66% of American males and 64% of American females survive as compared with 47% of European men and 55% of European women. For prostate cancer, 99% of American men survive as compared with 77% in Europe. For colon or rectal cancer, the United States survival rate is 65%, the European rate 56%. For breast cancer, we have 90% survival for American women versus 79% for European women. Mortality for breast cancer is 52% higher in Germany and 88% higher in the United Kingdom than in America. Prostate cancer mortality is 600% higher in the United Kingdom and 460% higher in Norway. Even in Canada, breast cancer mortality is 9% higher, colon cancer mortality is 10% higher, and prostate cancer mortality is 184% higher than in the US.

Infant mortality, as documented in World Health Organization statistics, is often cited to show the inferiority of American health care. But there are no adjustments made in the rankings for how various countries count infant mortality. In the United States, infant life is counted from the first breath taken after delivery. If the child dies after that first breath, he or she becomes an infant mortality statistic. Many other countries count differently. Some start counting only 24 hours after delivery; others automatically register babies below a certain weight as stillborn. According to Willke, “Our infant mortality rate is probably almost the lowest in the world, bested only by certain Scandinavian countries which do not have the large percentage of low income, poorly educated immigrant population that the US does.”

Willke also writes that most medical advances occur in the United States, including a whopping 90% of the research and development of new drugs. This is a direct outgrowth of the entrepreneurial system that underlies medicine in our country. Not only does this drive medical improvements around the world, but it makes Americans early beneficiaries of the newest techniques and drugs. Given the truism that the private sector does everything more quickly, more efficiently and with greater productive innovation than the government, one can only assume medical care will become slower, less efficient, and less innovative under Federal control. The statistics presented here, and many others, show only what we ought to expect, quite apart from any fundamental moral or ideological concerns.

It is no wonder that, strictly from the medical point of view, the Catholic Medical Association has repeatedly called for the preservation of subsidiarity in health care, arguing that the role of government should be primarily to stimulate the private sector to fill coverage gaps. Like the CMA, the Life Issues Institute is clearly opposed to throwing the baby out with the bath water. So it turns out that, far from being junk mail, Life Issues Connector is attractively presented, well-written and on point. For more information, visit the web site at

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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