Do you remember Evan Thomas? The guy who thinks that Obama is “sort of God“? Yeah, that guy.
Well, he’s carrying the water for those not-really-death-panel death panels in an article in Newsweek titled, of all things, The Case for Killing Granny.
The idea that we might ration health care to seniors (or anyone else) is political anathema. Politicians do not dare breathe the R word, lest they be accused—however wrongly—of trying to pull the plug on Grandma. But the need to spend less money on the elderly at the end of life is the elephant in the room in the health-reform debate. Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it. At a more basic level, Americans are afraid not just of dying, but of talking and thinking about death. Until Americans learn to contemplate death as more than a scientific challenge to be overcome, our health-care system will remain unfixable.
To use the favorite phrase of the current POTUS, let me be clear. I watched my mother die of pancreatic cancer. It was horrible, messy, painful beyond my imagination and awesome. Not like “AWESOME! DUDE!!”, but it filled me with an awed dread of what cancer can inflict on a living body. I know that there comes a time to say “enough” and to allow a person who is terminally ill to die.
I also was at the deathbed of a friend’s 93-year-old grandmother who had congestive heart failure and had been failing for a year. She had a stroke and despite her will to not revive her, an ambulance was called and she was placed on life support, which was mostly oxygen but included an IV and a couple other machines I don’t remember the function of. By the time my friend and I (and two other friends) arrived at the ER, my friend’s mother had gotten over her panic and brought out the will her mother had written asking for no life saving procedures if she had another massive stroke. And so I was privileged to be in the room when my friend’s grandmother drew her last breath.
So, lets just say I understand a little bit about end of life care.
This debate about death panels is about something very, very different than giving someone with three forms of cancer and a pole through their chest a knee replacement.
This debate centers around two very important issues:
1. If the government is running heath care, to whom do you appeal? As long as the government remains in a regulatory role only, we have a place to appeal crappy medical decisions by an insurance company. With the government displacing a private company and the weight and insanity of the federal government and it’s inherent immunity* to lawsuit, we have no entity to whom we can appeal. In other words, we are under a tyrannical government.
2. What about the active, reasonably healthy 80-year-old who needs a knee replacement? Or a stent or two? Maybe a bypass? After the said hypothetical surgery, that 80-year-old can go on living a productive life for another 10, 15 or maybe 20 years. THOSE are the decisions we are worried about. Out of Obama’s own mouth, maybe that 82-year-old who needs a pacemaker should just sit down and take some aspirin. That’s scary as heck!
Again with the anecdotal: My own close, personal** father just had two stents placed. He is recovering well, and for an 80-year-old, doing very well. Under Obama’s logic and with rationed medical procedures that Evan Thomas says must occur, Dad would not have been eligible for the stents and would, perhaps, by this time have died of a heart attack.
That kind of rationing makes no damned sense. And with the government in charge of health care we will be without appeal. I say it again, this is an intolerable tyranny.
*The inherent immunity to lawsuit I speak of is this: what private citizen has enough money to fund a lawsuit against the federal government? Maybe Bill Gates. Of course, a person of wealth can just purchase health care and medical procedures out-of-pocket as they do now in Canada, Britain and Australia. Average Joe Citizens do not have the millions of ready dollars to devote to a years long legal battle with the federal government.
** I detest more than I can say the phrase “close, personal friend”.