This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.


Death Panels? Already Here!

I watch the political fencing contest that is happening between the Democrats and the Republicans on health care and one of the dominant attack methods of the Republicans is to bring up the looming spectre of "Death Panels". As I understand it, those alleged "death panels" would convene to determine quite literally who would live and die based upon the treatments they allow. It seems to be getting some traction as an attack method, as its making the Democrats respond to it, however haphazardly.

The truly humorous thing is that the Democrats are letting the attacks work and not pointing out the simple fact that death panels already exist. After all, who determines who gets organ transplants. Who figures out which candidates are unworthy of a transplant due to factors that would affect the outcome of the transplant. For instance, chronic alcoholics will often find themselves on the bad side of a death panel when it comes to getting a new liver. I am fairly certain that its a group of health care workers that evaluate the issues against a relatively objective set of criteria, but ultimately there are subjective aspects for each of the participants.

Furthermore, the so-called death panels are entirely appropriate whether its for private or public insurance programs. Let's say, for instance, that a cancer patient faces certain death in the short term if they don't get a bone marrow transplant that optimistically gives them a 1/10% chance of survival. There are always more experimental treatments that give the faint glimmer of hope for tragically sick people, but often at extreme costs. For that 0.1% chance of survival the cost to the insurance company (public or private) is >$100,000 and that cost is borne by either taxpayers or other insurance policy holders, thus increasing the cost for all health care, all for a long shot at survival. Ironically, if that same person had the assets to pay cash for the transplant, they likely wouldn't do so to avoid bankrupting their family's future. The natural human inclination is usually to "go for it", if it's on someone else's tab. Perhaps it should be stated in a fashion more like "if you get the bone marrow transplant, $100k gets taken out of your grandson's school budget".

I seriously wish that the people making these decisions would use a little common sense and critical thinking skills. They are too busy thrusting and parrying to actually pay attention to what they are doing.


Blogger pce said...

. . and they've been around a long time, though known by other names. "God Committees" for one. . .

9/10/2009 01:10:00 PM


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