Thursday, September 25, 2014

Second Thoughts About Death Panels


When the Tea Party advocates used those scary words “death panel” as relates to Obamacare, the left went nuts, denying they existed.

If I remember right, on some forum, I defended the need for a panel to decide at some level whether money was going to be spent on particular medical procedures for particular people. I believe I pointed out that insurance companies have been doing so for years.

When other people’s money is being spent for your health care, whether from insurance premiums or taxes, economic realities have to be taken into account. Insurance companies do it with panels, and also by placing a cap on the total amount they will allot. If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars of your own money and want to spend it to keep aunt Martha alive for 60 more days in intensive care, go ahead, but when other people’s money is being spent, expect economics to play a role in medical decisions.

However, with the recent IRS scandal, the incompetent roll out of Obamacare and the VA health care scandal, maybe I ought to be a little more sympathetic to the Tea Party in this matter. I do not trust the government to remain apolitical or even wise in these matters.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of Obamacare, made the news this week (Sept. 22, 2014) by publishing an article in the September issue of “The Atlantic” in which he declared 75 years was long enough for a person to live.

“Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: Living too long is also a loss,” he wrote. “It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.”

Emmanuel went on “Morning Joe” to explain his idea, saying that it all boils down to “the meaning and purpose of your life.”

When the issue of death panels was brought up, Emmanuel said he has been against euthanasia for 25 years, but he supported the idea of a person halting their medical care once they got to a certain age. “The question isn’t living longer. The question is high-quality life. This is what most people want.” So apparently, the question is not just one of economics but one of economics based on “high-quality life.” And, who is going to determine that?

Many years ago, when I was active in the pro-life movement, we talked about abortion as the slippery slope that would lead to infanticide and eventually euthanasia. The pro-choice people accused us of being alarmist and assured us that would not happen. Yet, people who follow the news know we have slipped way down that slope: consider partial birth abortions and assisted suicide, or do the names Dr. Kermit Gosnell or Dr. Jack Kevorkian mean anything to you? I guess I don’t want people who think like Emmanuel making life and death decisions on my behalf.

I have been a breath away from death and did not find it particularly disturbing. As such, I see no need for extra ordinary means to be taken to keep death away from my door, but I would like to know that decision will be made by me rather than a bureaucrat steeped in government regulations and policy manuals or swayed by personal prejudices, say a Lois Learner. There are too many variables at play in determining “high-quality” life to be determined in that way. Today I may volunteer to not seek medical help, but tomorrow, after the idea becomes acceptable, I will be told to end it.

    I’m not sure when we should give up on life, but I remember a friend telling me once that all life should be respected because it is the rarest thing in the universe. No, he was not a Christian, not at the time. In fact, he had placed his faith squarely in science and technology. But, his statement has had an influence on how I think about life, even as to how I view the squishing of insects, fishing, hunting or cutting down trees.

Maybe opposition to those “death panels” wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

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