Monday, June 29, 2009

President Obama: Potential for Getting Healthy? You Win!!

Let’s be clear: President Obama’s push for healthcare reform will significantly change the way people with serious medical conditions, especially among the elderly, those with disabilities, and the terminally ill, will be treated.

Well, not treated, actually.

There’s no doubt that the President’s message, hammered relentlessly at every turn, is made in starkly economic terms – that medical care is very expensive, costs need to be controlled, and resources have to be allocated in new ways.

That’s half the pitch.

Here’s the other half: Because of this problem, it’s important to see which groups of people disproportionately consume the lion’s share of medical care dollars.

We already know: People with disabilities, people with serious chronic illnesses, the terminally ill, and the elderly.

The president hasn’t gotten around to making his economic case about people with disabilities yet, but he has in terms of the elderly and the terminally ill. My take is that among the targeted groups, it’s the disability community that will raise stiff opposition. The elderly and the terminally ill are more vulnerable, and are less likely to protest.

Let me put the president’s strategy more bluntly:

"Medical care is expensive. Some people get a lot of care, others very little. Many people who get a lot of expensive care are the elderly, those with disabilities, and those who are probably not going to ever be as healthy as they used to be. We don’t have the money to pay for every expensive procedure for everyone, so we need to decide who gets the care that’ll give us most bang for the buck."

The President doesn’t say it this way, instead he uses a euphemism it’s hard not to like: Health. We must give medical care to make people healthier.

Note what’s not said: If you have no prospect of getting healthy, then the government needs to step in and decide whether or not you are worth getting the treatment.

President Obama drive this point home in his interview to the New York Times in April (all italics are mine):

And part of what I think government can do effectively is to be an honest broker in assessing and evaluating treatment options. And certainly that’s true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, where the taxpayers are footing the bill and we have an obligation to get those costs under control. And right now we’re footing the bill for a lot of things that don’t make people healthier.

The president drummed the “Health” theme again in his ABC News Health Care Forum at the White House last week:

But here's the problem that we have in our current health care system, is that there is a whole bunch of care that's being provided that every study, every bit of evidence that we have indicates may not be making us healthier.

And later:

And in terms of how doctors are reimbursed, it's going to be the same system that we have now, except we can start making some changes so that, for example, we're rewarding quality of outcomes rather than the number of procedures that are done. And this is true not just for doctors, it's also true for hospitals. One of the things that we could say to hospitals is, reduce your readmission rate, which is also often a sign that health outcomes have not been so good.

Now, we've put forward some specific ways of paying for the health reform that we talked about. About two-thirds of the cost would be covered by re-allocating dollars that are already in the health care system, taxpayers are already paying for it, but it's not going to stuff that's making you healthier.

Prediction: If the President has his way, expensive medical care will be redirected to the winners in this money game, those who have the potential to be healthier.

If you have a disability, if you’re elderly and in poor health, or if you have a severe chronic or terminal condition, you lose.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Charlie & Jessica: A Story the Pro-Death Folks Don’t Want You to Read

For those of us doing our best to counter the spin, propaganda, and outright lies that the pro-assisted suicide and euthanasia folks regularly crank out, it’s understandable that we sometimes miss stories that make our points quite elegantly.

Don’t miss this UK story, written by Charlie Uttley, a TV presenter, about his relationship with his mother, Jessica, who is terminally ill with cancer.

Here is a story of love, care, and warmth. It’s even got some very dark humor. Charlie’s piece opens with a description of a song he wrote for his mother:

Not long ago, I wrote a song with an ex-Cambridge Footlight friend of mine called Smother Mother. The opening verse includes the lines: 'Why should comfort be dependent on a pharmacy of pills, when one well-disposed descendent and a pillow cures all ills? Smother, smother, smother, smother mother.'

The loudest laughter came from Jessica.

What’s most remarkable about the story is it counters just about all the points the other side uses to frighten and mislead people. Charlie shows that while caring for Jessica is no picnic, it’s not the horrible torture and hell that the pro-death side says most of us will face as our lives come to an end.

Here, along with some suffering, to be sure, is true dignity, true joy, and a palpable sense of love.

Love and dignity are not helium-filled plastic bags. They are not cold, calculated killings in a dingy apartment in Switzerland. 

No, the exemplars of love and dignity are Charlie and Jessica.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pro-Death Propaganda Steals the Show in the UK

I’m human, just like everyone else, and so when I make a prediction that turns out to be correct, I have been known to say, “I told you so.”

Last January 12th I wrote of assisted suicides at Dignitas in Switzerland, which are hardly gentle and loving:

Here’s the kicker: This nightmare will hardly engender much shock or outrage, I’m afraid.Why? Because the spin and pressure will be to pass laws to make places where people kill themselves nice and comfy, clean, and warm.

Well, I told you so.

A while back, I wrote that the UK was now ground zero for the pro-death movement, currently focusing on the thin end of the wedge, assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is a wedge because the ultimate aim of the pro-death movement is not only legalization of assisted suicide, but also the eventual legal availability of euthanasia for anyone, at any time, for any reason.

I have also written quite a bit about the Swiss killing group, Dignitas (here, here, here, here), who are happy to help kill people – for a price.

Dignitas has become infamous lately because of the many people from the UK who have flocked to their killing facility (read: grubby apartment, strange looking people) in Switzerland. Many of these cases have been widely reported in the media. Dan James. Craig Ewert. The list goes on and on.

I predicted that instead of revealing the lie that assisted suicide is a heinously selfish and soulless act, the pro-death spin would be that the UK laws would be made to be the culprit – that’s it’s not fair or kind to ship people off to unfamiliar places in Europe to commit assisted suicide. They should be allowed to do it at home in familiar surroundings.

Ergo, it’s the LAW that’s the problem, not helping killing people.

Today I’m saddened, but not surprised, that the UK pro-death spin was exactly what I said it would be. 

Read on.

The pressure is building inexorably in the UK to overturn the laws that make assisted suicide illegal on at least two fronts.

The first is the persistent Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis. She has already made the decision to got to Dignitas to be killed, and wants her husband to be there. She has petitioned all of Britain’s lower courts to clarify whether he will be prosecuted for aiding and abetting her suicide when he returns to the UK. They have all refused to do so. Tomorrow, Purdy takes her case to the highest court in the land, the House of Lords.

It’s important to note that others who have done this have not been prosecuted, but Purdy wants more: She wants the law to say unequivocally that there will be no legal action.

Second, a major piece in today’s edition of London’s Mail reported that there are currently almost 800 people lined up to be killed in Switzerland. 34 have been cleared by their doctors for assisted suicide because they are terminally ill and supposedly competent to make the decision. Others have already set their dates with death. 

This is all bad enough, but, again, let’s look at the media propaganda:

The number of Britons thinking of travelling to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland has almost reached 800. The figure is ten times the level of seven years ago.

Spin 1: The numbers are increasing, we must do something, this is a growing problem! There is a demand for assisted suicide by the British people!

Well, to me, we might want to ask why there is such a demand. Could it be the pro-death mission of fear, especially playing on peoples’ fear of abandonment, is meant to make more people want to die by assisted suicide?


There is massive public support for a change in the law to allow assisted dying, with polls regularly showing more than 80 per cent of the public want it made legal.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns to allow assisted suicide, said: 'There is clearly a growing demand for a well regulated, legal right for people with terminal illness who are mentally competent to end their life if they choose to.'

Spin 2: If the majority want it, it must be right. Laws should be changed if 8 out of 10 people think they should be changed. That’s how we’ll make it safe and legal for you to have someone help you kill yourself.

Really? Let’s remember that history is full of examples where some very nasty things happened based on popular opinion. Sterilization comes to mind. I’m willing to bet that most of the 80% are significantly misinformed – no, lied to – and that they are responding to pro-death propaganda.

Let’s continue:

The 1961 Suicide Act criminalises anyone who aids, abets, counsels or procures someone else's suicide, and some relatives have been questioned by police.

Oh my gosh!!! The police questioned some relatives related to their possibly breaking the law? What’s next? Public executions? (Pardon the sarcasm).

I repeat: In all these very high-profile cases, what the UK authorities have actually done is turn a blind eye to these goings-on. Seems to me that if they had followed the letter of the law diligently, a lot of relatives who helped kill people at Dignitas would already be charged, found guilty, and be in jail.

But it’s the spin, you see - implying that those big bad Bobbies are hauling off vanloads of poor grieving relatives to languish in the basements of Her Majesty’s Prisons.


Baroness Jay said: 'It's a tragic anomaly that people who are giving a last loving assistance to a loved one find themselves under the threat of imprisonment.'

So, you know what comes as the climax of the piece, don’t you?

Read on:

Lesley Close, who went to Dignitas in 2003 with her brother John, a sufferer from motor neurone disease sufferer, said: 'More and more British people will be travelling to Switzerland to die because more people are aware of the compassionate and peaceful death you can achieve there . . . The interest in Dignitas underlines the case for reform of the law. We need the same facility here.'

Big bad law. Big bad Bobbies. So uncaring of those saints who are helping kill people.

Nice gentle, compassionate Dignitas, where all is dappled light and calm.

However, the truth will out, in my opinion, because there’s no future in assisted suicide.