July 20, 2011
In recent years, particularly since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), there seems to have been an increase in the amount of commentary espousing the rationing of healthcare for the elderly, chronically ill, and the handicapped. Ever since the allegation (correct as it was) that the Obama health plan contained rationing and “death panels,” there has been a strange flurry of both denial and simultaneous support of the concept of health care rationing for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
With this in mind, the recent editorial by David Brooks that was published in the New York Times, titled Death and Budgets, should come as no surprise. In this article, Brooks argues that it is pointless to spend as much money as we currently do on individuals who will only benefit from a few months of life extension. He also asserts that the sick and the old have an obligation to the living; what has been deemed by others as a “duty to die.” Brooks even goes so far as to suggest the ridiculous idea that the current budget crisis is the result of old people who receive health care services in the last few months of their lives.
While some may laugh at the last sentence, Brooks actually states, “This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death – our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy to extend life for a few more sickly months.”
Brooks writes that it is unfortunate that medical science has not progressed to the point where we “live longer, healthier lives and then die quickly” and laments the fact that most of the “achievements” of our system come in the form of methods to “marginally extend the lives of the very sick.”
Brooks also states, “Others disagree with this pessimistic view of medical progress. But that phrase, ‘marginally extend the lives of the very sick,’ should ring in the ears. Many of our budget problems spring from our quest to do just that.”
Brooks then goes on to cite some very alarming statistics, at least in the way in which they are presented to the reader. He writes, “The fiscal implications are all around. A large share of our health care spending is devoted to ill patients in the last phases of life. This sort of spending is growing fast. Americans spent $91 billion caring for Alzheimer’s patients in 2005. By 2015, according to Callahan and Nuland, the cost of Alzheimer’s will rise to $189 billion and by 2050 it is projected to rise to $1 trillion annually – double what Medicare costs right now.”
Barely able to contain his disappointment, Brooks continues, “Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and the ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing – confront death and their obligations to the living.”
Yet, as cold-hearted and asinine as Brook’s theories may sound to some, the fact is that a great many academics, intellectuals, doctors, politicians, and even average citizens share his sentiment. At least, they share his sentiment when the sentiment is being applied to others.
Indeed, the mainstream media has been pumping steady propaganda in this regard, in an ultimate attempt to convince the American (and European) public to accept the denial of care to the elderly, sick, and handicapped in a population reduction and eugenics scheme that is very similar to the eugenics policies enacted in Hitler’s early Germany and early 20th century America. If one can convince the population that there are those who deserve a chance at life less than others; or, even more so, that those “less-deserving” individuals are actively reducing the quality of life for everyone else, then they will often easily look the other way while the undesirables are removed.
It has happened before, and it is happening now. Unfortunately, in our current society, which is vastly egocentric, it seems that less and less propaganda is required in order to convince the general public that their own fellow humans are dragging them down simply by virtue of their being alive. Especially when the last remaining scraps of an imploding economy are being fought over.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
There is no shortage of articles being published that espouse the idea that the elderly have a duty to die, or that the sick and infirm are a drain on society. Consider the now famous article published by Newsweek, entitled The Case for Killing Granny, or this one published in the Daily Record: Leading Doctor: Should NHS Spend Millions Keeping Alive Terminally Ill Patients for Few Weeks? Or this USA Today article that posits whether it is really worth it to incur end-of-life health care costs at all.
Consider, also, these statements made by Virginia Ironside regarding her opinion on what should be done to sick children.
Many of these comments seem eerily reminiscent of those made back in the open eugenics phase of the early 20th century.
David Brooks’ argument centers largely around cost and the fiscal crisis more than it does morality. Considering his position, it is safe to say that the author is as lacking in that department as he is in fiscal acumen.
The claim that “The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs,” is completely erroneous for several reasons. Brooks centers his argument around end-of-life care (specifically in the last few months of life) for the elderly and the chronically ill, and not health care costs in general. This, in itself, is misleading, because his claim of “health care costs” actually include everything from doctor’s visits for the common cold and baby deliveries, to that of kidney failure and cancer. Thus, he is falsely attributing costs to the elderly and end-of-life care where they do not necessarily exist.
Admittedly, there should be no argument with stating that health care costs are astronomical and unreasonable. There should be no argument that health care costs often bankrupt the individuals who are saddled with them and often prevent others from receiving the care they need. This much is a fact.
But it is also a fact that these financial burdens are more often than not picked up by the individuals who incurred them to begin with. Yes, there are those individuals who manage to receive care by virtue of the state and subsequently the taxpayers. But, by and large, this is not the general population of those receiving end-of-life care. Indeed, if these individuals are using Medicaid and Medicare (probably coupled with Social Security), one could scarcely argue that this is a drain on society since these were programs paid into by the overwhelming majority of those individuals receiving the benefits.
David Brooks, with his alarming statistics, would have you believe that end-of-life care is essentially taxpayer based. Brooks claims that Americans “spent $91 billion caring for Alzheimer’s patients in 2005.” However, while this much may be true, the presentation is grossly misleading, as it suggests a collectively accrued cost. Therefore, when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s they are a drain on all of us. A drain on society as a whole. A drain on the collective. This concept is often put forward, as we can see in the USA Today article:
But, increasingly, ethicists, economists and patient advocates are questioning whether the spending mentality is best for elderly patients or the long-term financial future of programs such as Medicare.
‘We are going to double the number of people who are sick, old and frail in about 15 years,’ says (geriatrician) Lynn. ‘It would be a good thing to try on some ways of thinking about how to live that well … and at a cost the community can sustain.’
Yet how many of these medical costs were incurred by private individuals with NO cost to the taxpayers?
Futhermore, Brooks fails to mention how many Alzheimer’s patients were being cared for in 2005. His article makes it sound as if $91 billion dollars was spent caring for a few hundred patients, but the fact is that millions of people have Alzheimer’s. Brooks’ article should have mentioned that $91 billion dollars was spent on caring for millions of Alzheimer’s patients. Of course, he didn’t, because if he did you might begin to realize how ridiculous his thesis actually is.
But perhaps Brooks’ most illogical claim is that the calamitous fiscal crisis is primarily the result of health care costs — particularly end-of-life care. Although medical costs certainly play a part, one might have more success in solving the crisis if one were to look at issues such as the Federal Reserve, dollar devaluation, bank bailouts, six illegal wars, the war on drugs, vaccination programs, and useless federal agencies like TSA, DHS, and the like. All of which DO directly burden American taxpayers and will negatively affect our community for generations to come. However, one might then be pressed to investigate a truly universal healthcare system (unlike Obamacare) which delivers affordable health care coverage to everyone. One might also be pressed to examine the fact that pharmaceutical companies are making astronomical profits that could be called gouging in a market that often means buying a product or facing death.
Ironically, both mainline Liberals and mainline Conservatives are likely to be persuaded by Brooks’ ridiculous arguments, and not just because of the general moral and intellectual decline of our nation. Similar to the early 1900s, Liberals are likely to accept the “duty to die” argument based upon their own worship of faith-based scientific fantasies and appeals to the collective, while Conservatives are likely to accept it as a result of an aversion to what they see as “paying the bill for someone else,” or the sacred cow known as the phony “free market.” Regardless, it seems that a majority of Americans have already given themselves over to the “duty to die” and “obligation to the living” arguments.
Perhaps it is as James Ridgeway writes for Mother Jones, “If I have any ‘obligation to the living,’ it’s to leave them with a better health care system than we have now – a health care system that values all human life above profits. But I know that’s not likely to happen before my death – which, if I listen to Brooks, could be right around the corner.”
One can only hope that David Brooks is aware that his eugenics theories may bring him some notoriety in certain circles, but they have also solidified his own obligation when he is faced with the same health issues that so many seniors are faced with today. In short, we are waiting to see whether or not the theories he has espoused for everyone else will be applied to his own life when the time comes.
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University where he earned the Pee Dee Electric Scholar’s Award as an undergraduate. He has had numerous articles published dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, and civil liberties. He also the author of Codex Alimentarius – The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies and Five Sense Solutions.