is much advocacy around the issue of cost containment as we enter
the great debate over health care “reform.” Here is the gig that
to be developing:
* We have to cut costs.
* People having their lives extended when they can’t
be “healed” cost too much.
* They should choose hospice or refuse treatment.
* If they won’t make the right choice, it is now
often hinted (while not stated explicitly), we will.
An article called “Reform Health Care Now: End of Life Costs are Too
High”, by Russell Kirk, MD, seems to follow that road map. From the
This same scenario is played out again and again: A
more or less hopeless but gets dragged out for weeks, months and
sometimes years. It seems as though the patient’s quality of life takes
a backseat to treating the problem at hand. More to the point, most
family members don’t consider the staggering costs of end-of-life care
since Medicare covers many people who end up in this situation. In a
report issued in April, Dartmouth researchers found that total Medicare
spending in the last two years of life ranges from an average of
$53,432 for patients treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to $93,842
for those at the U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles.
What’s the alternative? No clear answer has emerged,
everyone agrees that we have to figure out how to manage end-of-life
care in a more cost-effective way as the baby boomers age. And we need
to distinguish between care that prolongs life and care that actually
heals the sick. For example, one option for cancer patients when it’s
clear the disease is terminal is to utilize hospice care.
I am all for hospice care and refusing unwanted ICU–if that is what the
patient wants. As long time readers know, I have been a hospice
volunteer. My dad died of colon cancer receiving hospice as have
relatives and very close friends. But here’s the thing: Once we
that a life is not worth preserving based on costs, we have instituted
explicit rationing and created a duty to die.
The doctor then talks about a “well thought out plan” for end of life
care and the signing of advance directives. Again, I’m all for
recall that there are many forces wanting to give faceless bioethics
committees the right to veto your desires–even if set in writing.
suspect the good doctor would, too.
One final point: This article was linked and promoted at the assisted
suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, and that set off alarm
bells. Assisted suicide is the elephant in the living room of health
care reform that Kirk ignored. But the fact that C and C lauded the
article means that the money issue is coming to the fore in assisted
suicide advocacy, just as I always predicted it would. I mean
all the money to be saved if instead of hospice or an extended time of
debilitation we could give the patient a lethal jab or a poison brew!
Indeed, it’s already happening: Recall, in Oregon, Medicaid has refused
life-extending treatment to cancer patients but explicitly offered to
pay for assisted suicide. Not that assisted suicide
will become the
cornerstone of health care reform. But make no mistake: It is the
monster lurking in the shadows that we ignore at all our peril.
So, here’s the gig as I see it developing: In the new health care
order, “choice” will be sacrosanct if the choice is death–either
naturally or by lethal means. But if the choice is is to go on
living–at a certain point “choice” will cease to be operative because
you will have become unwanted ballast. Eventually, that could even mean
non voluntary euthanasia as now occurs with regularity in the
Contact: Wesley J. Smith
Source: Secondhand Smoke
Date: July 7, 2009
to this article.
this article to a friend.
The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in
Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state
coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of
Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our
society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political
persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic
backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has
been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the
human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that
every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is
dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection
for the disabled and the elderly. Click here to learn more about the IFRL.