Socialized medicine and passive-aggressive genocide

China Earthquake

Long ago in China, a boy coming home from school met up with his father, who was carrying on his back a basket holding the boy’s grandfather.

“Oh, father,” asked the boy, “where are you taking Honorable Grandfather?”

The father signaled that the boy should come closer, and then whispered in his ear, “I’m taking grandfather up to the waterfall. If I throw him over the edge suddenly, death will greet him so quickly, it will be painless.”

Aghast, the boy asked, “Why would you do that to Honorable Grandfather?”

“Because I must,” his father whispered back. “Honorable grandfather is too old to help in the field or around the house. Instead, he just sits in the corner, eating our food, drinking our tea, and requiring us to care for his needs. A quick, painless death will be better for everyone.”

The son nodded sagely upon hearing his father’s words. Then, as he turned to continue the walk home, the boy reminded his father of one thing. “Dear father, please make sure to bring the basket back, because I’ll need it for you one day.”

Although I was only around 12 when I first read that story, it resonated with me. Aside from admiring the boy’s cleverness, I was so grateful that I didn’t live in a country in which poor people had to make those kinds of choices. I didn’t realize back then that it would take a mere forty years for my country to creep ever closer to justifying the genocide of the old and the sick.  Even more ironically, I didn’t realize that this ugly choice would come about, not because individual poor people could no longer afford to care for their elders, but because our own government has decided that the nation as a whole should no longer care for its old people.

Old people certainly requiring a lot of care. With every passing year, our bodies become more fragile. While we love seeing videos showing very old people doing amazing physical feats, the reality for most people is that the journey to old age is marked by one bodily system after another breaking down. Our skin’s breakdown is the most immediately demoralizing (“I look so old”), but the real damage from aging happens under our skin, as our joints, muscles, and internal organs just stop working very well. Eventually, every cold has the potential for pneumonia; every fall has the potential to end in a broken hip; every chest pain could be a heart attack; and the joint pains that slowed us down in our 50s can render us immobile by our 70s.

Modern medicine, thankfully, can do a lot to ward off some of aging’s worst effects. Putting aside plastic surgery, which heals the spirit not the body, modern medicine offers everything from quick diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia; to hip repairs so effective that the old person can be home in a day or two, rather than confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed for weeks; to an amazing array of heart treatments, whether pills, pacemakers, bypasses, or transplants; and joint fixes that range from pills, to shots, to surgery, to replacement. All of these are the wonders and miracles of the modern age . . . and all of them are very expensive.

If you’re a free market person, you think that the way to address the expense is through the market place. If you had your way, you would allow insurance companies to compete nation-wide for customers, without thousands of micromanaging regulations but, instead, subject only to a few reasonable anti-fraud regulations.  You would also loosen the FDA’s shackles a bit, recognizing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that informed consent goes a long way when allowing experimental treatments on patients with fatal diseases. Doctors too would be relieved of some of the regulatory burdens that bind them, as well as the onerous burdens imposed upon them by insurance companies that are themselves straining under government’s strong hand.

However, if you believe that the marketplace is populated by idiots, and that paradise can be achieved only by putting every person’s health and well-being into expert’s hands, you would (1) make a push for single-payer (or “universal” or “socialist”) health care or (2), if you couldn’t go full socialist, you would push for a government-managed marketplace, one that seems to have private providers but, in fact, has the government dictating all aspects of medical insurance and health treatment. In the latter case, you would then tell the public is that this government-controlled market will force insurers and health care providers to lower costs. In either case, you wouldn’t tell the public that,  when the government dictates completely how the healthcare market must be run, the available money in the healthcare marketplace shrinks rapidly.

In a purely socialist system, the government has no incentive to lower costs, because there’s no competition. And in a government-managed system, as we’re seeing with Obamacare, the regulations are so onerous, and the stifling government control over what should be a dynamic marketplace so incompetent, that prices go up and the system runs out of money.  In either case, the provider is then left with only one solution: rationing.

My point about rationing is not hypothetical. In every country that has socialized medicine, there’s some form of rationing going on. What European countries have done to hide the rationing is to let people see doctors (because then people think they’re getting medical care), while issuing regulations telling doctors that there are certain treatments that, while do-able and available, cannot be given to people in the wrong demographic.

And what’s the wrong demographic? The very old and the very sick. Or in other words, the best treatments cannot be given to the people who need them most but instead, are reserved for those healthy young people who somehow stumble into the wrong disease. Even better, you can avoid treating the young people for the disease too if you argue that the disease’s rarity in their age cohort makes testing wasteful, no matter their risks or their symptoms.

When a government-run system runs into a work load too overwhelming to handle, it does something that would result in jail time for any private care provider: it ignores people to death. Just in the last year, we’ve learned about this passive genocide in both England and America. Both the National Health Service and the Veterans Administration simply stopped treating sick people because it was too much effort or because it cost too much to care for them without running over-budget (or, worse, without running the risk of wiping out bonus funds for the bureaucrats).

Because taxpayers paying for socialized (or semi-socialized) medicine dislike it when care providers give up the pretense of care and just kill people, governments that control access to medicine are always looking for alternative ways to trim the numbers of sick people that the system neither can nor wants to treat. The trend for the last decade or so has been to abandon active genocide (directly killing patients through maltreatment or no treatment) and to push what I call “passive aggressive genocide” — a health care system tells the patients to kill themselves.

The whole “you don’t want to live” push started innocuously enough — and reasonably enough — with those Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) directives by which patients tell hospitals that, if they have a sudden death incident while in the hospital, the hospital make only minimal efforts to revive them. The rationale is that, contrary to hospital television shows, most people aren’t miraculously saved by CPR — or at least, most old and sick people aren’t.  Additionally, the process of saving someone from sudden cardiac arrest is quite brutal, involving as it does breaking ribs or ripping the chest open to get to the heart.  Even worse, if only extreme measures will save someone’s life, there’s a good likelihood that the person will have suffered full or partial brain death or will be so frail overall that the life-saving procedure will stave death off for only hours or days, or will result in the person living as a vegetable.

The foregoing are all really good reasons to avoid resuscitation. Especially if one is elderly, it seems infinitely preferable to die peacefully under anesthetic (if something goes wrong), as opposed to having your chest beaten or sliced open, only to die soon after or to linger in a coma.  It may have been malpractice that killed Joan Rivers in the first instance but, if her number was really up, it probably would have been easier had she died on the table than lingered, intubated, catheterized, and covered with wires for several days.  Or at least that’s what they tell us.

Thus, for quite a long time, the medical establishment has told us “Old people, for your own good, if you suddenly die in the hospital, stay dead. It will make you happier in the long run.”  And to be honest, I agree with this.  For various reasons, I’ve seen or heard of a lot of people in their 80s and 90s who ended up terribly brutalized by CPR and who died anyway.  That’s why I have a medical directive.  Even good ideas, though, can be the beginning of a slippery slope, especially in a post-moral society.

For example, what do you do if old people start getting expensive before going to the hospital? Well, one of the things you can do is to have Ezekial Emanuel, the architect of Obamacare explain why it’s utterly useless to go on living past age 75 (which, according to the actuarial tables, is close to the average age of death in America anyway):

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

[snip]

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.

After explaining why it’s so good to die relatively young in a time when lifestyle choices and available medicine mean many of us can live to be quite old, Emanuel hastens to assure readers that he’s not advocating any policy that actually denies medical services to the elderly. He just thinks that old people should all join in with him and aim for dying fairly young.

Emanuel does have a point that many extremely old people complain about how awful it is to be old. Their brains and bodies are breaking down, they’re often dependent on others, and all the tasks of ordinary life are very, very difficult. What Emanuel ignores, though, is that, even as these people complain about the burdens of age, the vast majority of them still prefer it over death. Given the choice, they heed the Biblical admonition to “choose life.”

This life force is why my father, on the last day of his life before dying from cancer, when asked by a doctor “What can I do for you,” gripped that doctor by the lapels and, in a fierce whisper, said “Make me better.” And this is why a friend of mine who had AIDS, and who had stockpiled all sorts of medicines so that he could commit suicide when it got too bad, didn’t commit suicide despite Kaposi’s sarcoma, pneumocystis pneumonia, giardia, pedunculated lesions all over his body, and every other indignity AIDS could visit on what was once a healthy, handsome body. Instead, he fought to the end.

Contrary to Emanuel’s blithe certainty that, when he’s not as smart and good-looking and active as he is now (ahem), then he’ll just walk away from life with no regrets. I doubt it.

But perhaps I’m wrong to doubt that the Emanuel’s of this world are incapable of weakening our will to live. In societies as different as the Bushido warrior culture in WWII Japan and the radical Islamists in today’s world, we see that culture can destroy a human being’s innate life force. Despite our (and every other living creature’s) will to live, we humans can be talked into ignoring that instinct. We can be taught to value death because it serves our society. In Japan, young men who were taught to deny their life force died in kamikaze attacks on Americans; and practically every day, in every place around the world, some young Muslim boy or girl straps a few bombs to himself and goes off to die for Allah.

It’s therefore entirely possible that, if Emanuel and his cohorts spend enough time praising premature death, people will start to buy into it. And you know what?  I don’t even have to phrase this in terms of a hypothesis.  If I just cast my eyes across the Atlantic, I can see the future Emanuel desires.  Europe has had socialized medicine since shortly after WWII and has been pushing euthanasia for decades now.

WaPo columnist Michael Gerson has been looking at what’s happening in Europe.  In today’s opinion piece, he uses the Belgian government’s willingness to grant a serial killer his requested euthanasia as a springboard to discuss Europe’s reverence for medical suicide.

Gerson begins by noting that Belgians opposed to the prisoner’s euthanasia request have pointed out that killing a prisoner who is serving a sentence for murder is remarkably like having a death penalty, which the Europeans find barbaric.  Pro-euthanasia people dismissed this charge. To them, euthanasia is the ultimate act of individual freedom and self-determination. You have the power to cease being and the government will just make sure your decision gets carried out as painlessly as possible.

Put another way:  Europeans will gladly kill you if you’re a good person who has harmed no one, but they draw the line at killing a bad person who has murdered others.  Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?  Anyway, back to Gerson….

The whole “your body yourself” shtick that pro-euthanasia types in Belgium boast about sounds very nice, of course.  Gerson, though, points out the problem with this “free will” attitude, and the euthanasia system isn’t set up for total free will.  In fact, it’s set up so that the old and the sick are subtly, and not so subtly, told that they’re a drain on society. Gerson explains that the Belgian government has all sorts of legal hurdles before allowing someone to commit legalized suicide and that all these hurdles turn on proving that the soon-to-be-assisted-suicide is mentally or physically defective.  This negates the whole “anyone can cease to live if he wants” and starts to have an icky Nazi quality about it, except that this time the people march themselves to the gas chambers:

[T]he determination of certain societal classes that are helped in committing suicide is hard to separate from a judgment about the worth of those classes. The right to suicide adheres, in this case, not to all human beings but to sick and apparently flawed human beings. And such a “right” begins to look more and more like an expectation. A mentally or physically ill person can be killed, in the end, because they have an illness. A qualification can slide into a justification. This is a particularly powerful social message since people with cancer or severe depression sometimes feel worthless, or like a burden on their families, anyway. It is pitifully easy to make them — with an offer of help — into instruments of their own execution.

And suddenly, there you are . . . right back at the Chinese boy looking at his grandfather in the basket and warning his father that the father’s day will come too.

I’ll close with an anecdote I’ve told before because it deserves repeating. Many years ago, when Holland first enacted its euthanasia law, NPR ran an interview with a Dutchman who explained why euthanasia was a good idea in Holland, while it would be a terrible idea in America.  The secret to Holland’s euthanasia, he said, was socialized medicine.  The man explained that, in America, where medical costs could bankrupt families, those with terminal illnesses could be actively or passively coerced into turning to euthanasia in order to save their family’s finances.

Thus, both this Dutch man and the NPR host who interviewed him were both certain that Americans, when given the choice, would cheerfully throw Grandma from the train in order to save some money.  Europeans, the Dutchman explained, with their cradle-to-grave care, would never be pressured into killing themselves.  The beneficent state would pay all the medical bills, so money would not be an issue when it came to life and death decisions.  The only thing that would matter in Europe, said this Dutchman, was the terminally ill person’s wishes.

I, being a good liberal back in the day, enthusiastically endorsed what he had to say.  Clearly, euthanasia was a dreadful idea in America, where money was God, and people would be tempted to slip arsenic into their dying child’s broth in order to save the college fund for the next kid in line.

The intervening years since I heard that radio interview have revealed that the Dutchman was absolutely and completely wrong. In America, people have willingly bankrupted themselves to save beloved family members.  Mammon becomes meaningless when an extra treatment might give your child or a young mother a few more days, weeks, or years of life.  People have hearts and souls.  They connect to others, especially to those in their families.

The reality is that, when it comes to end of life decisions, the state does not love you.  It really does want you dead when you start costing too much.  If it can’t kill you with the blatant hard sell, it will try to get you to kill yourself by reminding you relentlessly that your best years are having and you should do yourself and society a favor by offing yourself.  Passive-aggressive genocide in a nutshell.  (And somewhere in Hell, a bunch of Nazis are thunking themselves on the heads, saying “Why didn’t we think of that?”)

ObamaCare death panels (guest post by Funny Catholic Girl)

Funny Catholic girl emailed me, asking if I’d be interested in posting her riff on ObamaCare death panels.  I liked what I read, so here it is:

Funny Catholic Girl Complains About ObamaCare “Death Panels”

March 23rd was the third anniversary of the ObamaCare law. Regardless of what you think about Sarah Palin, she is definitely spot-on about those ObamaCare “death panels,” also known as the “Independent Payment Advisory Board.” The federal government can be pretty clueless sometimes when it comes to deciding how to spend the trillions of dollars it has, and the thing is this: The government spends more money on old people than it does on anything else, and killing old people to save money would make perfect sense to a politician who thinks that “killing babies” = “providing healthcare.”

In 2012, there were 46 million Americans who received Social Security retirement benefits, and economists forecast that number to increase an additional 40% by 2023, with a similar increase in Medicare. In 2012, the federal government spent $1.793 trillion on Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and interest on the national debt, which is 50.7% of the entire federal budget (WSJ, 3/1/13).

Anyway, before you know it, the federal government will probably help set up these “clinics” called “Planned Childhood” or something like that. There’ll be a doctor in there who can examine grandma and grandpa to see if they fit some criteria and then just give them an overdose of pain medication as a “mercy killing.” These “clinics” will probably be staffed with people who are experts at cross-selling other products and services like coffins and cemetery plots. It sounds like a profitable business model that’s perfectly designed to meet the needs of a society and culture that’s obsessed with selfishness and pleasure.

The “death panels” are basically groups of government employees who a) sit around a table, b) interpret “the data” and c) decide how much people’s lives are worth based on how sick they are. It doesn’t matter whether the person might get better or not, because “the aggregate data” can’t reveal who will get better or not. The data can only provide probabilities about who might get better and who might end up costing more money.

The “death panels” will basically produce a list of criteria that the doctors at “Planned Childhood” can use to determine whether it’s okay for your parents to kill your grandma or your grandpa. It’ll work like this: a) your parents take grandma into “the clinic,” b) the doctor examines grandma, c) the doctor compares your grandma’s data against the data produced by the death panels and then d) the doctor kills grandma if the government says it’s okay to kill grandma. It works just like when the government says it’s okay to kill babies. There’s no difference whatsoever (except that it’s easier to kill the babies because you can’t see them without a sonogram).

The things that make the government “death panels” possible are the electronic health records (EHRs) and these things called health information exchanges (HIEs)—these aren’t the “health insurance exchanges,” these are the “health information exchanges.” Obama’s 2009 “economic stimulus package” included $19 billion for a) deploying EHRs in doctors’ offices and hospitals and b) developing the HIE infrastructure. One of the purposes of the HIE is to ensure a seamless transmission of the information in your medical records a) from your doctor’s office b) to the federal government so that c) Big Brother can d) analyze “the data” and e) decide where to spend money on f) various illnesses.

Money in Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package pays doctors up to $60,000 to implement a system for electronic health records. Then, if the doctors aren’t using electronic health records and HIEs by 2015, the government will start to penalize the doctors by paying the doctors less money for treating their patients. One of the requirements for doctors to get their $60,000 payments from the federal government is to prove that their EHR system can seamlessly transmit information to the federal government via the HIE. The government’s “EHR Incentive Program” has already paid out $12 billion through January 2013.

Electronic health records can be great things if they’re used in a good way (to help the patient). But in the hands of a government that doesn’t understand the value of human life, it’s a nightmare.

And if you don’t think the government isn’t already “marginalizing human life,” just consider what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is saying now. The CDC is saying that we should consider “the number of years of productive life” left in a person when considering the downside of death. When the CDC recently looked at the number of people who died from the deadly flu virus H1N1, a doctor employed by the CDC said, “The number of deaths is not the only thing to look at in assessing the impact, but the huge loss of human potential.” Because of the many younger people who were killed by H1N1, “more than three times the number of years [of life] were lost than are lost in a seasonal flu epidemic” (WSJ, 6/25/12). In other words, an old person’s life isn’t as valuable as a young person’s life because old people don’t have as much “human potential.”

One way to help stop the society and the culture from starting to promote the idea that it’s “okay” to kill old people is to help stop the society and the culture from promoting the idea that it’s “okay” to kill babies. People have to start saying “STOP!” If you don’t, then you might as well start figuring out right now how you’re going to keep your grandma and grandpa alive when your parents don’t have the time, the money or the energy to LOVE THEIR PARENTS.

Chris T. Smith is a graduate student pursuing a doctorate in neurobiology at the University of Texas. Her recently published book, 7 THINGS, uses “street language” vernacular to address challenging topics in science (perception vs. reality), philosophy (objective truth vs. relativism) and politics (conservatism vs. liberalism). In the process, she skewers politically liberal pundits such as Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow, and humorously describes the science underlying human perception to expose major flaws in the atheist mindset. Ms. Smith is on the web at know7things.com.

Chris T. Smith

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When it comes to end of life decisions, the state does not love you

Many years ago, when Holland first enacted its euthanasia law, NPR ran an interview with a Dutchman who explained why euthanasia was a good idea in Holland, while it would be a terrible idea in America.  The secret to Holland’s euthanasia, he said, was socialized medicine.  The man explained that, in America, where medical costs could bankrupt families, those with terminal illnesses could be actively or passively coerced into turning to euthanasia in order to save their family’s finances.

Old woman walking away

Put another way, this man and the NPR host who interviewed him were both certain that Americans, when given the choice, would cheerfully throw Grandma from the train in order to save some money.  Europeans, the Dutchman explained, with their cradle to grave care, would never be pressured into killing themselves.  The beneficent state would pay all the medical bills, so money would not be an issue when it came to life and death decisions.  The only thing that would matter in Europe, said this Dutchman, was the terminally ill person’s wishes.

I, being a good liberal back in the day, enthusiastically endorsed what he had to say.  Clearly, euthanasia was a dreadful idea in America, where money was God, and people would be tempted to slip arsenic into their dying child’s broth in order to save the college fund for the next kid in line.

Buried under debt

History has revealed that this Dutchman was absolutely and completely wrong. In America, people have willingly bankrupted themselves to save beloved family members.  Mammon becomes meaningless when an extra treatment might give your child or a young mother a few more days, weeks, or years of life.  People have hearts and souls.  They connect to others, especially to those in their families.

It’s very different in socialist states, where euthanasia is the name of the game, often without the patient’s, or her family’s, agreement.  In England, thousands of terminally ill people were hastened to their deaths by the Liverpool Care Pathway.  It was meant to be a national hospice program that provided palliative care to the terminally ill in their final days.  What ended up happening, of course, when the National Health Service started running out of money is that thousands (even tens of thousands) of elderly patients who were terminally ill, but weren’t anywhere near death’s door, were hastened to their deaths.  They had become too expensive or just too difficult to manage.

Loving care for sick child

It turns out that, twenty-odd years ago, when I heard that Dutchman speak, he had failed to consider two pertinent facts:  First, socialist states invariably run out of money once they finally destroy their productive class; and second, the state has neither heart nor soul.  To you, Patient X is your beloved mother, or brother, or child.  To the state, Patient X is an unnecessary cost to an already strained system.

What frightens me is that, in Obama’s America, even before socialized medicine takes over, we might be losing the heart and soul that distinguishes individuals from the state.  The Anchoress found at Salon an article in which Mary Elizabeth Williams, who supports abortion, finally comes out and said it:  So what if abortion ends life? It’s almost refreshing to see this kind of honesty about one side of a divisive issue:

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

[snip]

And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

The Anchoress slices and dices the whole argument, but I found this point particularly compelling:

A point of order, please: One may certainly sacrifice one’s own life for another. That is what makes it a sacrifice. Sacrificing “another’s” life is not a sacrifice, unless that other person actually (like Jesus Christ or a soldier who has volunteered to serve, or a mother like this one) says, “yes, I will be sacrificed for the sake of others.”

Absent that permission, though, it’s not a sacrifice. It’s just an expedient, and wasteful killing.

In fact, the notion that someone else’s life is “worth sacrificing” for the furtherance of one’s own situation — the mindset that can advance that thinking — is precisely one that deserves the name “diabolical.”

Although both the Salon article and the Anchoress’ rebuttal focus on the beginning of life, the whole article is unnerving about life’s end too.  The writer’s approach to human beings — we must sacrifice innocent lives for the greater good — has the same stark utilitarian logic found in the heartless and soulless socialist state that readily puts humans on a death pathway because they’re too expensive to care for.

Twenty years ago, I wrongly thought that a state’s magisterial power and wealth would be more pro-life than the human ties that bind people together.  I’m now scared that, twenty years hence, both states and humans will cheerfully dispatch any expenses or inconveniences.  And yes, it can happen here.  It happened in Germany, it happened in the Soviet Union, it happened in Turkey, it happened in Cambodia, it happened in Rwanda….

Cambodian victims

Whether one believes that the Bible is God’s handiwork or man’s, it is a book of inestimable wisdom about humankind’s strengths and foibles.  The constant exhortations to life stand as a reminder that man wears his civilization very lightly and that, beneath it, there is animal savagery, without any sense of morals, ethic, justice, or love.  It would be interesting to see what that long ago Dutchman, or the representations of the National Health Service, or even Mary Elizabeth Williams would say about the Biblical injunction to “choose life.

Belgium’s culture of death makes one try to imagine a world without Helen Keller

I think most of us found extremely disturbing the story out of Belgium telling about twin brothers in their 40s who were born deaf and were starting to go blind, and who found a doctor willing to legally euthanize them.  They weren’t sick and they weren’t suffering physically.  They just feared a future that added blindness to deafness.

I’m sympathetic to their concerns.  To be locked into your head like that must be very frightening.  But to make it a legitimate cause for government sanctioned death?  It’s an appalling thought.

I can see a very easy trajectory here.  It starts with people asking the government for permission to kill themselves.  The government grants that permission.  A few years of this, and you end with a government that starts thinking “Hey, there are some people who want this, so maybe others do and just aren’t speaking up, or don’t really know what they want.  Anyway, people who are suffering from these disabilities place an economic burden on society.  Let’s just make death automatic.”

Keep in mind that this trajectory is how the Nazis started their killing spree.  During the 1930s, “for the good of individuals and society,” they started euthanizing the unfit, whether they were mentally or physically disabled.

In my family, this has never been an abstract issue.  I had two relatives, one Jewish and one Christian, both of whom the Nazis “euthanized” in the 1930s because of mental health issues (or, in the case of the Christian, it might have been because he was gay — my mother doesn’t remember, as she was a young child at the time).  As we know, having discovered the institutionalized murder is easy, the Nazis expanded the scope, and begin killing Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, “deviants,” etc., while “merely” enslaving all sorts of other, less-than-worthy (in Nazi eyes) people.

But to get back to those twin brothers.  James Thunder reminds us that Helen Keller, at very young age, became both deaf and blind.  Thanks to her partnership with the amazing Annie Sullivan, those women became two of the most inspirational figures in the 20th century.  They were a triumph of patience, love, loyalty, faith, commitment, intelligence, and humanity.  It’s unnerving to think that, if Helen Keller lived in modern Belgium, and had a bad patch in her life, the government would quite cheerfully have euthanized her.

Death by government

First, a joke, one I’ve told before:

In long ago Japan or China (or amongst the Eskimos, or something else), a young boy came across his father carry a large basket on his back. In the basket was the boy’s grandfather.

He asked, “Father, where are you taking grandfather?”

“Shh,” said the father. “Grandfather is old and sick. He eats, but he does not earn. I’m taking him to the river, where I will leave him to die. It will be better for all of us.”

“Oh, father,” said the boy. “That is an excellent idea. But be sure to bring the basket home, so that I can use it for you one day.”

And now the two articles that tie in with that story.  The first describes a woman who learns that Medicare won’t pay for pain medicine for her elderly mother:

Since mother’s pharmacy was located in a Wal-Mart, I left the scripts with capable pharmacists and shopped awhile. Returning to pick up her medicines the pharmacist called me to come over and discuss the different medications and their uses and required knowledge. Then he paused and said,

Now, I need to tell you that your mother’s pain medication will have to be purchased by you, as Medicare will not pay for these, as your mother is too old.

Thinking I heard the man wrong, I asked him,

Did I hear you correctly? Did I hear you say my mother is too old for pain medication following surgery?

The druggist, smiling, repeated his previous comment, reiterating that Medicare, at least in his district, refuses to pay for pain medication for seniors, even following surgery.

That’s just one anecdotal story, of course.  I’m sure someone supportive of government run health care would argue that she misunderstood, or that the pharmacist misunderstood, or that the pharmacist was a sadist, or that it was only specific types of medicine and not just any medicine, and so on and so forth.

But what about the situation in which an entire medical group in a country that has socialized medicine rises up to say that the government is killing old people?

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn.

As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter states. It has been signed palliative care experts including Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London, Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, and four others.

“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.

“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”

The warning comes just a week after a report by the Patients Association estimated that up to one million patients had received poor or cruel care on the NHS.

The scheme, called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), was designed to reduce patient suffering in their final hours.

The article describes the humanitarian motives behind that LCP. I’m willing to believe that. The problem is that the government doesn’t have humanitarian motives. It has guidelines. And as well all know, humans don’t fit into guidelines.  Indeed, the human unwillingness to fit into tight little packages ties into another problem with guidelines:  they are inflexible.  Humans are not.  Another thing that’s fairly flexible is the marketplace.  If too many people complain about watching Mom or Dad starve and dehydrate to death, the market adapts.  The government doesn’t.

Why in the world would Americans want to go even further down this path than they already have?

“Make me well” *UPDATED*

My Dad always said that, when his time came, he’d just lie down and die.  He was fatalistic and, after WWII and the Israeli War of Independence, not afraid of death.  It all sounded very reasonable.  But reason and experience aren’t the same.  When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t just lie down and die.  He fought back.  He had every surgery and treatment available, and managed to survive seven years from the date of diagnosis.  Not all those seven years were good, especially near the end, but he was still my dear daddy, a loving husband to his wife, and a good friend to those who loved him.  His very last words, when he briefly emerged from a morphine haze one day before he died were in response to a doctor’s shouted request asking “What can I do for you?”  “Make me well,” my Dad said, his last known conscious thought.

My friend Mark, a hard-living gay man who got AIDS, would show visitors his vial of pills, insurance against the time when the AIDS got too unbearable.  I thought he’d take his pills when his body was covered with huge, mushroom shaped tumors that caused him tremendous pain.  But he didn’t.  I thought he’d take his pills when giardia ran amok, and he almost died from the horrible symptoms.  But he didn’t.  I thought he’d take it when he was so weak, he could no longer move from the couch, and all of his limbs were simultaneously numb and subject to shooting pains, but he didn’t.  (Apropos that couch, in one of the best examples of humanity I’ve ever seen, his ex-lover took Mark in after Mark’s illness left him homeless.  Mark’s parents would have taken him, by the way, but Mark was more comfortable dying in the gay community in which he had lived.)  Ultimately, Mark never did take those pills, but simply passed away in his sleep.

When we’re healthy and strong, it’s easy to state that, “when things get to tough,” we’ll just die with dignity.  But that’s not how the human life force works.  Our core being wants to live.  We humans are also tremendously adaptable.  As I have seen with friends and family, situations that would have seemed intolerable during the good times prove to be survivable during the bad.  Just think how many people in Death Camps (Nazis death camps, North Korean death camps, Gulags, death nations such as Ethiopia or Somalia) fight to live, despite conditions that ought not to sustain life at all, rather than giving up and dying.

Bottom line:  We humans, especially we Western humans, are programmed to fight for life.  It’s even part of our Biblical canon (Deut 30:19:  “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.“)

What’s very disturbing about the health care bill currently on the Congressional burner is that it mandates using government power to try to reprogram the elderly so that they consciously abandon the will to live.  This government mandate is entirely different from a situation in which a family doctor sits down with a sick person and carefully explains the dynamic of both illness and treatment.

I have friends who are doctors, and they are often sickened and saddened by the brutality of treatment used on elderly bodies, merely to buy a few days of (usually) unconscious and invariably pain-filled life.  The fact that we can enable a 97 year old cancer victim to live an extra month doesn’t mean we should.  The issue right now, however, isn’t end of life care — it’s whether the government should coerce, bully, and brainwash people into making decisions about their last days.

When it comes to death, whether a quick one or a slow one, we don’t know until we reach the situation what we’ll do.  Whether because of temperament, treatment or the disease process itself, some of us are probably better off without futile treatments that will add minimum time and maximum suffering.  Others of us, however, again because of temperament, treatment or the disease process itself, should have every opportunity to use the most sophisticated medicine in the world because we want to live.  Which leads me to the one thing I do know for certain:  I don’t want the Obama administration, or Congress, or any other governmental entity making the decision for me, or bullying me in one direction or another.

UPDATEMelanie Phillips’ article about the societal dangers that come with popularizing assisted suicide is very apropos to this post.  Her point is that the powers that be are manipulating people into being so frightened of unmanageable pain that they’re virtually pointing the way to suicide.  Pain can be made manageable, though, and, as I’ve pointed out above, people discover that they’re able to bear a great deal if they’re not entirely controlled by fear.

What are the odds, do you think, that any mandatory government counseling for elderly people in this country won’t make a very, very big deal about the potential for pain, as opposed to pain management, in connection with diseases in the elderly?

Herding seniors to the abattoire *UPDATED*

Don Parker nails both the costs and hypocrisy behind the mandate in the new health care bill that seniors be gently steered towards a cheap death.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Old Flyer for reminding me of this, which fits in so perfectly with the new plan:

UPDATE II:  A story from my dad’s old joke book.

In long ago Japan or China (or amongst the Eskimos, or something else), a young boy came across his father carry a large basket on his back.  In the basket was the boy’s grandfather.

He asked, “Father, where are you taking grandfather?”

“Shh,” said the father.  “Grandfather is old and sick.  He eats, but he does not earn.  I’m taking him to the river, where I will leave him to die.  It will be better for all of us.”

“Oh, father,” said the boy.  “That is an excellent idea.  But be sure to bring the basket home, so that I can use it for you one day.”

All cultures living on the margin of survival have used abandonment as a way of culling the herd so that the strong can survive.  The Hansel and Gretel story is a perfect example of this.  With too many mouths to feed, the children were left in the wilderness.

My question, of course, is whether we, in America, have come to that marginal existence?  The Left thinks we have.  I don’t — or, at least, I hope we haven’t.

When God closes a door, he sometimes opens a window

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s appearance on the national political scene, some Obama supporters made some pretty deranged statements about the Palin family decision to go ahead with a pregnancy when they knew that the baby would have Down Syndrome.  There was a lot of eugenics-type talk about the social utility of handicapped children (none) and the societal wisdom of destroying them (huge).

To those of us who have been paying attention for periods longer than this political season, these ugly outbursts weren’t surprising.  After all, Pete Singer, “dean” of American ethicists (with a chair at Princeton), and founder of the American animal rights movement, has long advocated that it is ethical to give parents a 30 day window after a child’s birth within which to destroy the child should the parents deem it defective.  Singer, like others with his statist views, have a peculiarly Utopian view of the perfectibility of humans, one which depends, not on moral growth, but on government force.

And yes, you’re not imaging it — Hitler did in fact put this ideology into effect.  Aside from trying to kill entire races he deemed defective, such as Jews and Gypsies, he was also big on genetic management, which involved prostituting German women to SS forces to make “perfect” Aryan babies and, on the flip side, killing those Aryans he deemed defective.  My uncle on the Christian side of the family was gassed because he was a manic-depressive.  This is what happens when the state makes decisions because, as I’ve said before, the state has no conscience.

The most clear and recent statement of this principle came from yet another famed “ethicist,” this one in England (emphasis mine):

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was “nothing wrong” with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be “licensed to put others down” if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as “immoral” and “barbaric”, but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain’s leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

In the statist world, it is impossible for those the statists deem defective to have any value.  It’s the one gaping hole in their identity politics world view.  Everyone has a protectible identity except the handicapped who are either very young (fetal and infantile) or very old.

I mention all this for a reason.  Don Quixote forwarded an email to me about Paul Smith.  Have you ever heard of Paul Smith?  I hadn’t ’til now, but I think meeting him and his work is very important as we tremble on the brink of becoming a truly statist state, with the same universal health care that led the “moral philosopher” of Britain to advocate the mass slaughter of Britain’s helpless elderly.

Here’s an abbreviated version of Smith’s bio from the Foundation set up to honor him and his work:

Paul was born in Philadelphia on September 21, 1921.

Although severe cerebral palsy kept him out of school, it didn’t prevent him from having a remarkable life.

Never having a chance as a child to receive a formal education, Paul taught himself to become a master artist as well as a terrific chess player.

[snip]

His incredible visualization and calculation skills helped to make him a formidable chess player. Paul would stop doing just about anything else when he had a chance to play a game!

When typing, Paul used his left hand to steady his right one.

Since he couldn’t press two keys at the same time, he almost always locked the shift key down and made his pictures using the symbols at the top of the number keys.

In other words, his pictures were based on these characters …

@ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _

Across seven decades, Paul created hundreds of pictures. He often gave the originals away. Sometimes, but not always, he kept or received a copy for his own records.

You should read the whole bio, which you’ll find here.

And what work are we talking about? The incredible pictures he created using ten keys on an old fashioned typewriter.  You can see those pictures here, at the Paul Smith Foundation’s Web Gallery.

Are they the greatest art in the world?  Nope.  Not even close.  The Louvre or the Met would not be interested.  Nevertheless, they are extraordinary and very pleasing to the eye — and that’s entirely separate from the awe one feels when one considers the physical work and the mental vision that went into creating them.

I’m no saint.  I give thanks daily that, despite being an older mother, both my children were born without Down Syndrome or any of the other genetic diseases nature tosses out.  I’d like to think that, had something bad happened, I could have handled it, but I simply don’t know.

I do know, though, that I’m am finding increasingly horrifying the open-faced calls from the statists demanding the death of the imperfect.  I’ll therefore end this post with a slightly modified version of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem (versions of which you can see here):

First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for those born with handicaps,
- but I was born without handicaps so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

It’s frightening how neatly my little interlineation fits into that poem, isn’t it?

(Right now, the gallery links aren’t working, but you can still get an idea of his work just by going to the gallary main page.  I’ll contact the gallery and see if they can fix the problem.)

UPDATEMore on those gifted lives that the raving Left now freely discusses snuffing.