Death panels? What death panels? Oh, those death panels
Sarah Palin’s warning about the effects of Obamacare on the elderly and infirm have been met with derision and ridicule. William Jacobson has a good round-up.
Meanwhile, the effects of socialized medicine in Britain — engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modeled — continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm:
Last year, my mother-in-law fell off her Stannah and broke a hip. If that sounds like the cue for a Les Dawson joke (”I was hoping it would be her neck”), it isn’t: I’m fond of my mother-in-law and the result of her little accident, not funny in the least, was that she nearly died. After a belated but successful operation, she developed c diff (clostridium difficile, the nation’s favourite hospital killer bug after MRSA), and three courses of antibiotics failed to clear the infection.
Suddenly a robust, cheerful woman of 79, whose only mobility problem had been climbing stairs, began to talk of never leaving hospital again but of being “laid out on a marble slab” – and when the hospital asked for our permission not to resuscitate her should she lose consciousness, we realised this was no paranoid fantasy.
Thanks to the efforts of her five children, who travelled long distances to see her, brought food, pleaded with staff not to write her off and eventually – because the pleas were falling on deaf ears – moved her to another (I’m afraid, private) hospital, my mother-in-law is still around, less active than she used to be, but alive to see in another new year. She was lucky. We were lucky. But as I’m beginning to discover, many people with elderly relatives are not.
Pauline Pringle wasn’t lucky. Her mother Sarah Ingham died around the same time and in similar circumstances, on January 6 last year: a badly dislocated hip was missed and after the operation that eventually followed, Sarah spent 12 weeks in Tameside hospital, Manchester, failing to shake off a post-operative infection and – denied a proper diet – losing three and a half stone in weight. She was then sent home, where the local GP knew nothing of her discharge and didn’t recognise her as the same woman he’d seen three months earlier. She died within a fortnight. At the inquest the coroner, John Pollard, said that he would be writing to the hospital to demand an explanation for Sarah’s malnourishment: “It is totally unsatisfactory in a major city in a western democracy that families have to bring food into a hospital because their loved ones are not being fed properly by staff.”
…One much quoted figure suggests that up to half a million elderly people in the UK are being abused at any one time. Unlike child abuse, elder abuse is rarely reported beyond local newspapers, and those who inflict it are less likely to be held to account.
When a House of Commons health committee produced its report, Elder Abuse, in 2004, it suggested that “abuse in domiciliary settings is the commonest type”. Overall, though, whereas the old are more likely to be robbed of money or possessions by their nearest and dearest, they’re more likely to starve to death in a hospital or care home. Dr Adrian Treloar, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry, caused a furore in 1999 when he applied the phrase “involuntary euthanasia” to the way in which elderly patients in NHS hospitals were being deprived of food and water and “left at the bottom of the pile”.
[D]espite all the progress which children with Down Syndrome are now making in schools and homes up and down the country, the medical profession in general still has a visceral bias in favour of eugenic termination, which its practitioners are often startlingly crude in expressing. This is not based on a realistic and up-to-date assessment of the possibilities open to those with Down Syndrome, still less of the happiness which such people can and do bring to families and even communities as a whole: it is a function of the fact – which is undeniable – that people with Down Syndrome are likely to cost the NHS more in subsequent medical treatment than a child without any disabilities.
Yesterday the BBC News website ran a selection of comments on this issue by members of the public. One in particular, by Heather of Livingston, Scotland, is worth reproducing in full here: “I was told that my daughter had Down’s when I was about 12 weeks pregnant and every doctor, gynaecologist I saw tried to convince me a termination was the best option. I was still offered this at 26 weeks! One reason given to me by a cold-hearted consultant was that ‘these babies put a strain on the NHS’. My daughter was stillborn and when pregnant again, I refused all tests apart from a scan. It’s not society who are looking for the ‘perfect baby’, it’s the medical profession.”
Death panels? What death panels? Oh, yeah, those death panels.
She doesn’t say that the government will kill disabled (or elderly) persons directly, but that death will occur as a result of the decisions of cost controlling bureaucrats with the power to determine who can receive various treatments. I don’t know why “level of productivity in society” is in quotes, nor do I know whether it is the plan to ration care on this basis. Those are actually serious matters, and I’d like to know the answers. What Kleefeld is doing is trying to sweep Palin aside as a big crazy wacko.
Yes, she used a colorful expression “death panel,” but it’s a good and fair polemical expression if in fact life-saving care will be rationed on this basis. I have found myself saying, in conversation, “I’m afraid Obama is going to kill me.” Now, I’m not picturing him or one of his minions coming over to murder me, but I am afraid that as I get older and need expensive care to keep me alive that I will be told I cannot have it, because at my age, in the government’s opinion, there’s not enough life left in me to be worth the money that I would take from the system that needs to pay for everything.
Another reality check from Deroy Murdock.
And concern about the Obamacare end-of-life provisions from Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane.