Sunday, November 20, 2011

Forbes: "Death Panels ... We already have one"

Last month, I cited the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's downgrading of PSA testing for prostate cancer as evidence that Sarah Palin's ObamaCare "Death Panels" charge was coming true. In that post, I quoted from a NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor correspondent who came to the same conclusion.

Recently, that viewpoint received some prominent support. In The Department of Health and Human Services' Death Panel, Steve Forbes wrote:

[T]he U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a committee of “experts” appointed by the Department of Health & Human Services ... recently de-clared that men should not be routinely screened for prostate cancer. The most common test is the PSA, which is part of a blood test. The panel also said no to rectal exams and ultrasounds, claiming that testing does no good, that it doesn’t save lives.

The emphasis is mine. So, it's worse than I thought. Just as in my previous post on the subject I cited numerous examples of the success of regular screening, so Forbes points to his own:

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer found in men. Last year it killed 32,000 people in the U.S. The panel’s tortured reasoning is that oftentimes traces of cancer in the prostate don’t lead to a full-blown attack that can kill the patient. True enough, as far as that goes. But the panel ignored the inconvenient fact that physicians have a measurement called the Gleason score to determine how dangerous the disease is. If that score is low doctors will take a watchful attitude; if it gets high they’ll recommend action.

I know. A routine rectal exam last spring resulted in an alarming finding, subsequently confirmed by an ultrasound and a biopsy. The Gleason score was flashing red, so my prostate was removed, and—knock on wood—it seems the disease was caught early and successfully.

The task force makes a big deal about the unpleasant side effects in treating prostate cancer. But with a disease like cancer I’ll take the side effects of treatment over letting nature take its course.

In other words, the government - if and when these recommendations are adopted - will come between the doctor's judgement and his patient's fundamental right to make his own decisions about his health. Where would Mr. Forbes be if doctors were probibited from doing rectal exams and ultrasounds, let alone PSA tests?

When Palin made her famous Death Panel charge, ObamaCare defenders were quick to point out that nowhere in the bill are anything resembling Death Panels explicitly called for. Some opponents of ObamaCare concurred. In his Summer 2011 Objective Standard review of Why ObamaCare is Wrong for America, Jared M. Rhoads writes:

[I]n the section titled bluntly "Are There Death Panels In ObamaCare?" (to which they answer "no"), the authors explain how the contraversy arose and what protections are in place to prevent the emergence of death panels - and then acknowledge the legitimate basis for concern over this issue, which is the conflict of interest introduced when the federal government makes decisions about coverage while simultaneously trying to control costs (p. 92).

The emphasis in the above quote is mine. This is why, in my 10/19/11 post, I said that "these government studies can not be trusted" because:

The Federal government now controls almost 90% of healthcare spending, both directly through programs like Medicare and Medicaid and indirectly through its crony arm, the quasi-private health insurance industry. Consequently, the government now has a vested interest in controlling costs. The deep, inherent conflict of interest is apparent, and should scare all of us.

It is a mistake to take Sarah Palin literally. But that doesn't mean she was wrong. The truth is much more subtle and sinister than that. In John David Lewis's Winter 2009-2010 Objective Standard article, What the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” HR 3962, Actually Says, Lewis writes:

This bill is 1,990 pages of mind-numbing legalese. It will reach deeply into federal and state regulations and laws, on a scale that will require years for experts to interpret. It will establish institutions that will be effectively irreversible. It will grant arbitrary powers to bureaucrats, who will have to interpret and enforce its dictates. A full analysis of its impact would require a commentary at least as long as the bill itself. American citizens cannot be expected to read and understand such legislation. But they should be aware that this is the nature of the laws being written by their (alleged) representatives in Washington.

This legislation empowers the executive branch, namely the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a “Health Choices Commissioner,” to write thousands of pages of regulations, and to force Americans to comply with them. For every line in this bill, many pages of regulations will be written. As a result, the bureaucracy will expand, the final cost will be many times more than the original estimates—and the impact on American medicine will be devastating.

Death Panels will arrive through the "arbitrary powers [of] bureaucrats" writing "thousands of pages of regulations" implementing policies often based upon the recommendations of reports such as the PSA study issued by the benign-sounding U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The devastating results may not occur immediately. As Forbes writes:

Two years ago this task force said wom-en under the age of 50 shouldn’t get annual mammograms—a “finding” so preposterous even the Department of Health & Human Services ran away from it.

This latest dictate is meeting the same fate.

Though they may not yet be able to get away with this particular attack on prostate cancer screening, it is an indication of the kinds of hidden forces being unleashed against American healthcare. The dictatorial power over our health care being accumulated by our government will lead inexorably to Death Panel results sooner or later, if not repealed. It is our children and grandchildren who will ultimately pay the full price.

Echoing others, Forbes concludes:

If the government succeeds in dominating health care, as it’s now on its way to doing, we can expect more of these weird and lethal findings. The focus will be on rationing and saving money. What we need in health care is more free enterprise, not Soviet-style controls.

No comments: