Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Douthat's Unexamined Premise Not Worth Writing

Writer Ross Douthat recently published a New York Times op-ed in which assertion predominates over fact.

Douthat is a conservative writer and film critic, but decided to write on health care.

Though Douthat mentions Oregon in passing (in the first paragraph no less), he hasn't followed the Oregon experience in any detail.

After explaining that, yes, some European systems (Britain, Netherlands) have had problems with euthanasia-leaning methods, Douthat pooh-poohs this happening in America. America is different. We are so concerned with "mastery over mortality" that we are much more likely to go bankrupt keeping Tom, Dick and Harry alive with "extreme life-saving procedures" than to exert pressure to ease a patient toward death.
"But the American way of death is different. Our move toward physician-assisted suicide springs from the same quest for mastery over mortality that leads us to spend nearly twice as much on health care as any other developed nation. And our instincts run so strongly toward unlimited spending that it’s much easier to imagine the government going bankrupt paying for extreme life-saving procedures than it is to imagine a suddenly cost-conscious bureaucracy pressuring doctors to administer lethal overdoses."

Seems that Douthat has not heard that the Oregon Health Plan did just that. OHP sent out advisory letters to those under its care explaining that life-saving drugs were just too expensive and wouldn't be provided. But, assisted suicide drugs costing just a fraction (and also only needing a one time dose!), were readily fundable.

Hmm. Guess Americans aren't that different from Europeans after all.

Douthat also takes a swipe at former Governor Sarah Palin--twice. Again, he offers no facts. Not even a link (which he manages for Ezekiel Emanuel). Just a sneer in passing.
"But you don’t have to share Sarah Palin’s death panel fears to see perils lurking at the intersection of physician-assisted suicide and health care reform.
. . .

"Just because Ezekiel Emanuel and Sarah Palin agree that a slope exists, however, doesn’t mean that America will slip down it."

Well, I have a link on Governor Palin's position for Douthat. I'll even quote a bit:
"A great deal of attention was given to my use of the phrase 'death panel' in discussing such rationing.[7] Despite repeated attempts by many in the media to dismiss this phrase as a 'myth', its accuracy has been vindicated. In the face of a nationwide public outcry, the Senate Finance Committee agreed to 'drop end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.'[8] Jim Towey, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, then called attention to what’s already occurring at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, where 'government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.'[9] Even Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, a strong supporter of President Obama, agreed that 'if the government says it has to control health care costs and then offers to pay doctors to give advice about hospice care, citizens are not delusional to conclude that the goal is to reduce end-of-life spending.'[10] And of course President Obama has not backed away from his support for the creation of an unelected, largely unaccountable Independent Medicare Advisory Council to help control Medicare costs; he had previously suggested that such a group should guide decisions regarding 'that huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives….'[11]

"The fact is that any group of government bureaucrats that makes decisions affecting life or death is essentially a 'death panel.'"
. . .

" 7 See http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=113851103434
8 See http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/54617-finance-committee-to-drop-end-of-life-provision
9 See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358590107981718.html
10 See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/10/AR2009081002455.html
11 See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03Obama-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1"

Maybe if Douthat spent a little more time researching (even simple Google researching), his output wouldn't be so embarrassing.


OregonGuy said...

Is reality a useful tool for deserved fisking?

Thanks for the post.

T. D. said...

Thanks for your comment, OG!