Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Playing God

An article in yesterday's Roanoke Times highlighted a recommendation from a task force about who lives and who dies in the event of a health crisis.

It ran in other papers, too.

This should open up a dialogue about our health care, and about our values as a society. I daresay that will not happen.

We tend to ignore the things that most warrant our attention, I notice.

In any event, should we have an outbreak of pandemic flu, for example, these people for sure will be left for dead:

Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

_People older than 85.

_Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.

_Severely burned patients older than 60.

_Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.

_Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.

But I wonder why stop there? Any why just with a pandemic - why not with cancer cures, pneumonia shots, insulin - any of the things that the "lesser" folks need to survive?

After all, we already section out health care based on ability to pay. If you've got the money, you get the best care. If you've served in Congress, you get good care, too.

If you're middle class, you get poor to fair care. You might still get a flu shot.

If you're poor, well, you get the idea. Some hospital might take you in, only to dump you on the street the next day.

If it's the young and vibrant, those with skinny bodies, healthy tans and white teeth that we're looking for, then a pandemic is certainly a good way to root out all of us who miss the mark. Just withhold the drugs and take us all out at one time. It would leave the perfect society, wouldn't it?

The government has touted this pandemic thing very hard in recent years (it was never on my radar until this Administration). So much so, I strongly suspect they are hoping for one in order to wipe out all of us slobs who don't fit their idea of a perfect specimen. It would be a great way to cleanse the population.

This is wrong on so many levels I can't even begin to list them. This is amoral and it shows plainly how little regard that we as a society actually have for one another.

If this is what comes from a supposedly Christian nation, then God help us all.


  1. I think it's important to keep in mind that the list was drawn up only as a worst case scenario - if we were in a situation where there weren't enough beds, doctors, nurses and medicine to go around, how do we decide, fairly, how we ration the limited resources that we do have.

    They aren't trying to say that the elderly and sick can't get care - they just want to set some guidelines to help a caregiver decide what to do in a situation where he or she has to decide who to help first if times get tight.

    Contingency plans, like funeral arrangements and life insurance, aren't fun - they make us sober up and think about things we probably would rather ignore. But having the plans in place can help to insure that the disaster is at least mitigated somewhat.

    The alternative - not having a written, well thought-out procedure in place - could lead to chaos, and
    chaos means that ONLY the strong and fortunate get care.

    Having said that, you can bet that plans or no plans, the wealthy and powerful will find a way to bend the rules to their favor.

  2. I realize this has an "only" with it - but then how do you define a worst-case scenario? Does the annual flu become that, and we start withholding treatment out of fear that there won't be enough shots for the chosen ones? I see it as a ball rolling with no end, a slippery slopes.

  3. Good point, CD.

    I guess I'm a bit sympathetic to the plight of these guys - I've been involved in making contingency and disaster recovery plans before, and it is absolutely NO fun whatsoever.

    It is important work, but deciding who gets to eat when you have three people and one ounce of rice sucks. To put it simply, you can either split everything up into thirds, or ration it out to the individuals with the greatest chance of surviving. Split it, and everybody eats but nobody survives. Ration it, and you get to tell good people that they are SOL.

    Jeebus, but this world can be a cruel place sometimes. Think I'm going to crawl back under the covers for awhile...

  4. I'm sympathetic, too. One of my husband's three jobs is as a firefighter; he deals with life and death everyday. The world is indeed a cruel place, and I have no answer to such issues. But I do fear that once you start devaluing people for whatever reason, then the morals of a society that accepts that become suspect.

  5. Wow, CountryDew - you REALLY got me to thinking this morning...

    I agree with you 100%. I'd love to hear your husband's take on this, from a firefighter's perspective... he's undoubtedly had to give it some thought, and it's probably much more "real" and less esoteric for him. I mean, forced to make a choice, just who DO you pull out of the fire? (or in this case, the pandemic?)

    Great post, anyways. I am incredibly jealous!

  6. Don't think this can't happen...it's already happening in Oregon. At least I think that's where they are deciding who gets medical treatment to contain costs. Actually, aren't we doing it en masse by not having universal health care? And then, like Ron, I got to thinking about all the other types of shortages and how that will play out. I try to stay optimistic, but sometimes it's hard not to be scared.

  7. I've had to make a disaster plan before, but for "things" not "people." Ugh.

    Other nations are at this point in some respects as people are rioting for food in Haiti, rice shortages are hitting the world over and 10,000 people were just killed in Myanmar. Myanmar was warning about conditions caused by global warming in February of 2007 last year.....but I digress.

    I think that we will see more of this as (I believe) conditions will escalate the world over. China right now has many sick and ill as hand/foot/mouth (bad one) is worse and worse.

    I think I will remind myself to always go out with a bit of makeup and look snazzy in the event that I'm on somebody's yeah or nay list. Not to make light of it- - -but the whole idea rather sucks.

    Anyway- - -I'm promoting special cause this week. Stop by if you have a chance.

  8. Over here, the practice is already to discount the right to life of anyone not young and healthy. You are not wanted if you are old, poor, over-weight, have a smoking problem or a drinking problem or a drug problem. You're not wanted if you are ill or constitute any kind of charge on the state. Medical treatments are approved by a committee called NICE who weigh the *economic* advantages of offering or with holding them. Not the medical advantages but those with ramifications on taxation (which of course the middle class and wealthy resent paying - though they expect free health care all the same, while denying it to those they consider unworthy). Things didn't use to be like this, but monetarism (eagerly espoused by Margaret Thatcher) changed everything, putting accountants and politicians in charge instead of health professionals. If things are so bad now, just imagine how bad they will be when the inevitable crisis arrives and health rationing will become even more severe. Instead of caring for all, we will care only for those who (in their own estimation) are worthy.


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