As bad as this is there is something even more ominous on the horizon. President Obama, his Health Secretary Tom Daschle, and Congressional Democrats are now going after the end of life as well. From the Wall Street Journal:
In Britain, a government agency evaluates new medical products for their "cost effectiveness" before citizens can get access to them. The agency has concluded that $45,000 is the most worth paying for products that extend a person's life by one "quality-adjusted" year. (By their calculus, a year combating cancer is worth less than a year in perfect health.)
Here in the U.S., President-elect Barack Obama and House Democrats embrace the creation of a similar "comparative effectiveness" entity that will do research on drugs and medical devices. They claim that they don't want this to morph into a British-style agency that restricts access to medical products based on narrow cost criteria, but provisions tucked into the fiscal stimulus bill betray their real intentions.
The centerpiece of their plan is $1.1 billion of the $825 billion stimulus package for studies to compare different drugs and devices to "save money and lives." Report language accompanying the House stimulus bill says that "more expensive" medical products "will no longer be prescribed." The House bill also suggests that the new research should be used to create "guidelines" to direct doctors' treatment of difficult, high-cost medical problems.
How does this work? The government agency puts a “value” on your life. It then looks at the treatment. If your life is worth more than the treatment you get it. If not, you don’t. This is the utilitarian model of bioethics. Human life is judged by what it produces. It is this thinking that allows an unborn child to be killed if he does not fit into the plans of his mother. It is this thinking that justifies euthanasia. It is this thinking that supports eugenics.
How is it working in Great Britain? Take a look at this post from Wesley Smith. He is a bioethicist who strongly supports intrinsic human dignity and opposes the utilitarian model of bioethics.
When I was in the UK in the wake of Terri Schiavo, advocating for Leslie Burke's right to have a feeding tube when the time came that he could no longer swallow--Burke has a degenerative neurological disease akin to a slow motion Lou Gehrig's and he sued to make sure he wouldn't be dehydrated--I saw the legal briefs NICE filed against Burke's position. It wanted total control by the doctors over whether he lived or died when he became totally disabled based on quality of life/resource standards. Horrible, just horrible.
In 2005, I wrote about the case for the Weekly Standard in "The English Patient," which included a quick description from official testimony about how the NICE works. From my piece:
"[Under NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) standards, an] assessment is made of the cost of the treatment per additional year of life which it brings, and per quality adjusted life year (QALY) . . . which takes into consideration the quality of life of the patient during any additional time for which their life will be prolonged. The clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment under review is then used as the basis for a recommendation as to whether or not . . . the treatment should be provided in the NHS..." In other words, medical care is effectively rationed by the National Health Service under guidelines set by bioethicists based on their beliefs about the low quality of life of patients whom they have never met. While the views of patients and families are to be taken into account when deciding whether to provide treatment, they are not determinative.
In the name of editorial fairness I must disclose this has suddenly become very personal. Just last week my mother was diagnosed with leukemia. All indications are that it is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. The great news is that this form of leukemia is readily controlled by one pill a day. The name of the medication is Imatinib mesylate . (Trade name: Gleevec) However, Gleevec is incredibly expensive. Insurance helps and Novartis, the maker of Gleevec has a generous plan for subsidizing the cost. The plan being supported by Obama and Secretary Daschle and being considered by Congress could say that my mother’s life is not worth the cost of this medication. Do you want a government agency deciding what your parents’ lives, your children’s lives, or your own life is worth and dictating what medical care you are entitled to receive?
It is important that we do not allow our focus on abortion to give Obama’s agenda of death a free pass on other life issues. Being pro-life is more than being against abortion. It means supporting the intrinsic dignity of the human person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.