Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ON SOCIALIZED MEDICINE: “I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die.”

There is no excuse, once logic and reason are used, to ignore the reality that socialized medicine (aka nationalized health care; aka "the public option") will bring to America. The examples of rationing to death are too numerous to list.

However, the outcome of socialized medicine can be best summed up in this excellent post by Voices of Reason:

“I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die.”

In a pair of recent posts on correcting health care injustices (here and here), Alex Epstein pointed out how treating health care as a collective good gives rise to the following kind of argument: “We as a society must make ‘tough choices’ about who gets health care and who doesn’t…. Since ‘we’ have finite medical resources, we inevitably have to sacrifice some people’s care to others, whether young to old or old to young.”

It is worth pausing to think about how that kind of policy plays out in practice. In recent weeks, we have heard strident rhetoric about the prospect of “death panels” voting to pull the plug on Aunt Minnie’s respirator—but no such dramatic scenes are
likely, at least not anytime soon. What we are more likely to see, as health care rationing increases, are gradual changes in individuals’ attitudes toward their fellow citizens, as everyone competes in drawing resources from the same public health-care trough.

What kind of changes can we expect?

In Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, one of the characters recalls what happened after his company medical plan started allocating medical care on the basis of collective need:

“In the old days, we used to celebrate if somebody had a baby, we used to chip in and help him out with the hospital bills, if he happened to be hard-pressed for the moment. Now, if a baby was born, we didn’t speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts were to farmers. In the old days, we used to help a man if he had a bad illness in the family. Now—well, I’ll tell you about just one case. It was the mother of a man who had been with us for fifteen years. She was a kindly old lady, cheerful and wise, she knew us all by our first names and we all liked her—we used to like her. One day, she slipped on the cellar stairs and fell and broke her hip. We knew what that meant at her age. The staff doctor said that she’d have to be sent to a hospital in town, for expensive treatments that would take a long time. The old lady died the night before she was to leave for town. They never established the cause of death. No, I don’t know whether she was murdered. Nobody said that. Nobody would talk about it at all. All I know is that I—and that’s what I can’t forget!—I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die. This—may God forgive us!—was the brotherhood, the security, the abundance that the plan was supposed to achieve for us!”

By such steps, in the privacy of their own minds, Americans may someday become accustomed to shrugging their shoulders and turning aside when a dying neighbor is told the system lacks money to provide necessary care. At that point, scary rhetoric about “death panels” will seem beside the point, if the entire ponderous government mechanism that administers health care has become a life-and-death panel holding the fate of every American in its hands.

Let the final outcome be understood from the outset: Socialized medicine in America will lead to rationing, which will lead to death...all for the common good.

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