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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It Is More Than Abortion...It is About Life

Many blogs are reporting how overnight the White House web site has morphed into a pro-abortion site. Where are all those “Catholics” who said pro-lifers were over reacting and Obama was really going to be good for the pro-life issue? He has wasted no time in declaring his primary objectives.

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.

9 comments:

EbethW said...

Thank you very much for the heads up. Why do I feel so let down and helpless!!!!!

Prayer with white knuckles!

Diana said...

Very scary!

We will say prayers for your mother.

simplycatholic.net said...

What a sad time for our country.

Julie D. said...

Praying for your mother ... and you are quite right about the Culture of Death. Great Britain and Holland are our future visions of this country if we are not vigilant.

Barb, sfo said...

Thank you, Denise, for this information. My prayers are with your mother.

SQUELLY said...

Hi! I am a British Catholic Blogger and I have to say I am so worried because Obama uses the same language that Blair used when he came to power. It all sounds "positive" but the implications are devestating. My prayers are with you. Thank you for making the important point that this is about so muchmore than abortion(check out post on my blog WALKING THE WALK - CHOOSING LIFE). Please spare a prayer for pro-lifers here in England (we do exist!) and we face such a struggle.

RAnn said...

Yet, the issue of whether treatment is worth what it costs is one with which we have to deal, whether we go with a government-run and/or single-payer system or stick with what we have now. All of us want cadillac treatment, the best available and hang the cost (but don't make my premiums too high or ask me to pay too much out-of-pocket, and certainly don't raise my taxes to pay for it). Because of health insurance we can "afford" drugs that cost thousands of dollars a month, surgeries with six figure price tags and doctors who charge $150 for a thirty minute visit. Unlike decisions we have to make about most other things in that price range, most middle to upper income Americans (and those on welfare) do not have decide what they are going to do without in order to afford the health care we get. I don't blame you for wanting Gleevec for your mom, and I'm sure you are much better qualifed to determine how much it is likely to help her than I am, but would you be willing/able to pay out of pocket for it? What would you be willing to do without? Would your mother rather you spend that money on keeping her alive, or on sending your kids to college (if that's the choice)? Would she rather you spend it on her, or on keeping your kids fed (because for some folks that would be the choice).

We simply cannot afford to keep on paying doctors, hospitals, drug companies and other providers of medicals care as much money as they care to charge for whatever treatment the patient or the doctor (who is trying to please his/her customer the patient and trying to make a buck too)wants to have. The question isn't WHETHER limits need to be imposed, it is WHO should impose them, and in what manner. Requiring substantial out of pocket expenses is one way of limiting what providers charge--but it hits the poor hard. Limiting what expensive procedures/drugs etc are covered is another way, but whatever system is used is bound to earn someone's wrath.

Catholic Mom said...

RAnn,
I have no problem with a commission to really look at the science behind various therapies and compare them based on science, not on drug manufacturer's hype or special interest group lobbying. There have been numerous cases in recent years of drug companies selectively submitting data to the FDA so that the less favorable data was excluded. Lobbying by homosexuals has made AIDS a national concern when truthfully, there are many other conditions that deserve as much or more attention that have been ignored. Here is an example of the kind of analysis we need: blood pressure medicine A costs twice as much as blood pressure medicine B. What do we get for this cost? Is it just convenience? Is it an increased effectiveness that isn't really clinically significant? Those are fair questions that must be asked. Newer and more expensive is not always better. However, the British commission on which the Obama/Daschle plan is modeled goes beyond evaluating therapy and begins evaluating lives. It states one year of life is worth $45,000 unless you have cancer. Then you are worth less. Those who are severely disabled are not worthy of even basic hydration and nutrition as Wesley Smith found when he advocated for a man with progressive neuronal degeneration. This utilitarian sort of thinking is in direct opposition to Catholic teaching.

Peggy said...

Yes, indeed. I am starting to think of Obama as President Death.