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Posts Tagged ‘Death Panel’

I’m not easily grossed out or nauseated. Heck, I’m on email lists for a half-dozen softball teams and you can only imagine the strange/filthy/nasty things that guys send to each other.

But I read a story about the death panels in the United Kingdom that left me discombobulated. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Here’s the intro of a disturbing report in the Daily Mail.

Sick children are being discharged from NHS hospitals to die at home or in hospices on controversial ‘death pathways’. Until now, end of life regime the Liverpool Care Pathway was thought to have involved only elderly and terminally-ill adults. But the Mail can reveal the practice of withdrawing food and fluid by tube is being used on young patients as well as severely disabled newborn babies.

And here are some of the horrifying details. Read at your own risk.

One doctor has admitted starving and dehydrating ten babies to death in the neonatal unit of one hospital alone. Writing in a leading medical journal, the physician revealed the process can take an average of ten days during which a  baby becomes ‘smaller and shrunken’. The LCP – on which 130,000 elderly and terminally-ill adult patients die each year – is now the subject of an independent inquiry ordered by ministers. …Earlier this month, an un-named doctor wrote of the agony of watching the protracted deaths of babies. …‘I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby.’ Grim Reaper with Kid…Bernadette Lloyd, a hospice paediatric nurse, has written to the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health to criticise the use of death pathways for children. She said: ‘The parents feel coerced, at a very traumatic time, into agreeing that this is correct for their child whom they are told by doctors has only has a few days to live. It is very difficult to predict death. I have seen a “reasonable” number of children recover after being taken off the pathway. …‘I have also seen children die in terrible thirst because fluids are withdrawn from them until they die. ‘I witnessed a 14 year-old boy with cancer die with his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth when doctors refused to give him liquids by tube. His death was agonising for him, and for us nurses to watch. This is euthanasia by the backdoor.’

My first reaction is to hope that this story is wildly wrong, filled with exaggerations and lies.

My second reaction (and this is why I got so agitated) is to imagine what it must be like for the parents. They get talked into letting their kids die, which must be agonizing, and then (assuming they stick around) they have to watch them slowly starve to death or die of thirst. Wouldn’t it be better to just give your kid a fatal injection? Setting aside the moral issue of deciding to let a kid die because he’s disabled or something like that, doesn’t simple decency mean that death should be painless rather than agonizing?

My final reaction is to wonder what Paul Krugman would say about this scandalous neglect and mistreatment. During the Obamacare debate, he told us we could ignore stories about what was happening across the ocean, writing that “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.” So I guess starving children don’t qualify as a scare story.

P.S. If you want more horror stories about government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom click here, here, here, here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.

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I used to think I was in favor of every possible step to reduce the burden of government spending.

But I confess I’ve come across a budget-cutting strategy that even I can’t support. And it’s not in the area of national defense or public safety, which even I agree are legitimate functions of government.

Instead, I’m talking about the government-run healthcare system in the United Kingdom, which apparently is bribing hospitals to make greater use of the “Liverpool Care Pathway,” which is the UK version of a death panel. Here are some jaw-dropping excerpts from the Daily Mail.

Hospitals are paid millions to hit targets for the number of patients who die on the Liverpool Care Pathway, the Mail can reveal. The incentives have been paid to hospitals that ensure a set percentage of patients who die on their wards have been put on the controversial regime. In some cases, hospitals have been set targets that between a third and two thirds of all the deaths should be on the LCP, which critics say is a way of hastening the deaths of terminally ill patients. At least £30million in extra money from taxpayers is estimated to have been handed to hospitals over the past three years to achieve these goals. Critics of the method warned last night that financial incentives for hospitals could influence the work of doctors.

Here’s some additional info of how the program works.

The use of CQUIN payments to encourage the spread of the LCP through the wards and to persuade doctors to meet Pathway targets was revealed in answers to Freedom of Information requests. Among trusts that confirmed the use of targets was Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which said that in the financial year which ended in March the percentage of patients who died on the Pathway was ’43 per cent against a target of 35 per cent’. Over the year the Trust received £308,000 for achieving ‘goals involving the Liverpool Care Pathway’. Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust had CQUIN payments connected to the Liverpool Care Pathway almost halved after failing to reach targets.

Somebody should ask Paul Krugman about this horrific story. Even if the occasionally overly sensational British press is exaggerating and the real story is only half as bad as these excerpts, this is a nightmare. And it definitely shows that Krugman was wrong in 2009 when he wrote that, “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

Unless, of course, proponents of bigger government don’t think bribing hospitals to hasten death qualifies as a “scare story.” In that case, I’ll give them credit for being consistent, but only if the political elite has to live (or, in this case, die) by the same set of rules.

For some reason, though, I don’t think the Paul Krugmans, David Camerons, and Gordon Browns or the world will be subjected to the same treatment as the rest of us peasants.

And that’s also an issue with Obamacare. When push comes to shove, I strongly suspect the politically well connected somehow will avoid any of the headaches that are bound to result from that costly legislation.

If rationing is going to happen, I’d rather it be the result of markets rather than connections.

P.S. Other horror stories about the UK health system can be perused here, here, here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.

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Republicans have finally woken up and are beginning to explain why Medicare needs to be reformed.

Here’s a very good new video from Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. He hits on key points regarding market competition versus government monopolies, and warns about the danger of giving control of the health care system to Obama’s panel of bureaucrats.

Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has a video emphasizing the need for reform. He also trashes the demagoguery of the left.

Not surprisingly, I can’t resist adding my video to the mix. I’m not as polished as the two lawmakers, but I hope the information in my video is a very important complement to the issues discussed by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Rubio.

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I just read something that unleashed my inner teenager, because I want to respond with a combination of OMG, LMAO, and WTF.

Donald Berwick, the person appointed by Obama to be in charge of Medicare, has a column in the Wall Street Journal that makes a very good observation about how relative prices are falling for products bought and sold in the free market. But he then draws exactly the wrong conclusion by asserting that further crippling market forces for healthcare will yield similar cost savings for programs such as Medicare.

Here’s the relevant passage from his Wall Street Journal column.

The right way is to help bring costs down by making care better and improving our health-care system. Improving quality while reducing costs is a strategy that’s had major success in other fields. Computers, cars, TVs and telephones today do more than they ever have, and the cost of these products has consistently dropped. The companies that make computers and microwaves didn’t get there by cutting what they offer: They achieved success by making their products better and more efficient. …Under President Obama’s framework, we will hold down Medicare cost growth, improve the quality of care for seniors, and save an additional $340 billion for taxpayers in the next decade.

I have no idea whether Berwick realizes that he has inverted reality, so I can’t decide whether he is cynically dishonest or hopelessly clueless. All I can say with certainty is that what he wrote is sort of like asserting “gravity causes things to fall, so therefore this rock will rise when I let go of it.”

To explain, let’s start by looking at why relative prices are falling for computers, cars, TVs and telephones. This isn’t because the companies that make these products are motivated by selflessness. Like all producers, they would love to charge high prices and get enormous profits. But because they must compete for consumers who are very careful about getting the most value for their money, the only way companies can earn profits is to be more and more efficient so they can charge low prices.

So why isn’t this happening in health care? The answer, at least in part, is that consumers aren’t spending their own money so they don’t really care how much things cost. As this chart illustrates (click to enlarge), only 12 percent of every healthcare dollar is paid directly by consumers. The rest comes from third-party payers, mostly government but also insurance companies.

In other words, Berwick’s column accidentally teaches us an important lesson. When consumers are in charge and responsible for paying their own bills, markets are very efficient and costs come down. But when government policies cause third-party payer, consumers have little if any incentive to spend money wisely – leading to high costs and inefficiency.

Defenders of the status quo argue that the market for healthcare somehow is different than the market for things such as computers. But here’s a chart (click to enlarge) showing that relative prices are falling in one of the few areas of the healthcare system where consumers spend their own money. And I’ve previously noted that the same thing applies with abortion, where prices have been remarkably stable for decades. Regardless of one’s views on the procedure, it does show that costs don’t rise when people spend their own money.

That’s common sense and basic economics. But it’s not a good description of Obama’s healthcare plan, which is explicitly designed to increase the share of medical care financed by third-party payer.

The White House presumably would argue that price controls will help control costs. And the President’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (a.k.a., the death panel) will have enormous power to directly or indirectly restrict care, but that’s probably not too comforting for the elderly and others with high healthcare expenses.

The right approach, needless to say, would be to restore market forces to healthcare, which is the core message of this video narrated by Eline van den Broek of the Netherlands.

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Welcome Instapundit readers. This post looks at the politics of Medicare reform. You may also want to click on this post to see a video that succinctly explains the policy of Medicare reform.

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Republicans are understandably nervous about polling data showing considerable opposition to the Ryan plan’s Medicare proposal – particularly since they just voted for a budget resolution in the House of Representatives that includes such a reform.

Their unease is warranted. GOPers almost surely will be subjected to a scorched-earth campaign in 2012, featuring lots of demagoguery about  Medicare “privatization,” mixed in with shrill rhetoric about big insurance companies and “tax cuts for the rich.”

I don’t particularly care about the GOP’s electoral prospects, but I do want to save my nation from fiscal collapse, so that means I don’t want entitlement reform to become radioactive.

So what can be done to counter the predictable onslaught against Ryan’s Medicare proposal?

First and foremost, reformers should borrow some advice about counter-attacks from President Obama. He said during the 2008 campaign that if opponents “bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” and a high-ranking White House aide in 2009 urged supporters to “punch back twice as hard” when dealing with attacks against government-run healthcare.

While reformers obviously should avoid the unseemly rhetoric associated with the current Administration, they should copy the aggressive approach. Timidity is a recipe for defeat.

For instance, do not allow the left to compare the Ryan proposal to the status quo of unlimited handouts. That system is bankrupt and even the Obama Administration acknowledges that something dramatic needs to happen to control costs.

Indeed, the best strategy for reformers may be to compare the Ryan plan to Obama’s scheme for a beefed-up “Independent Payment Advisory Board.” Sounds wonky and technical, but IPAB is the bureaucratic entity that will be in charge of imposing price controls that lead to the rationing of health care for the elderly.

In other words, the real issue is who will be in charge of the pool of dollars that will be used to provide healthcare for the elderly. Ryan’s plan would let seniors choose a health plan that best suits their needs and provide a big subsidy to finance that policy. Obama’s plan, by contrast, will keep seniors in a government-run system and let a bunch of unelected bureaucrats decide what kind of care they should receive.

Moreover, reformers should fight fire with fire. If the left is allowed to use “privatization” to describe Ryan’s plan (notwithstanding massive government involvement and subsidies), then reformers should refer to IPAB as a “death panel.”

My colleague Michael Cannon is a one-man truth squad on these issues, and he already has explained that there was a lot of merit in Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obamacare would create something akin to a death panel, and he has documented the various ways that government-run healthcare will lead to rationing.

To conclude, here are excerpts from two excellent columns that recently have been published on Obama’s IPAB scheme.

Rich Lowry of National Review writes.

Why does Obama need specifics when he has the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB? If spending on health care is the biggest driver of government spending, then IPAB is Obama’s most important deficit-reduction initiative. …Obama…implicitly acknowledges that [Medicare] is broken and bankrupting us. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be proposing a cap on Medicare’s growth that is at least as stringent as anything New Gingrich proposed in the 1990s… Under Obamacare, IPAB is to hit a target for Medicare’s growth that significantly squeezes the program beginning in 2014 (in his budget speech, Obama said he wants to ratchet down the cap even further). …In the fact sheet released in conjunction with his budget speech, the White House says he wants to give IPAB “additional tools” and “additional enforcement mechanisms such as an automatic sequester.” …IPAB won’t make the notoriously inefficient Medicare program any more efficient. Through arbitrary reductions on payments to providers, it will simply reduce the supply of care. …Medicare’s chief actuary warned that Obamacare will drive providers out of the program. If you love Medicaid, you’ll adore the new IPAB version of Medicare. It will be the experts’ gift to America’s seniors.

The Wall Street Journal’s superb editorial page also has a good analysis.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board was created in the ObamaCare statute, and the President will appoint its experts in 2012 to six-year terms. …Starting in 2014, the board is charged with holding Medicare spending to certain limits, which at first is a measure of inflation. After 2018, the threshold is the nominal per capita growth of the economy plus one percentage point. Last week Mr. Obama said he wants to lower that to GDP plus half a percentage point.  Mr. Ryan has been lambasted for linking his “premium support” Medicare subsidies to inflation, not the rate of health cost growth. But if that’s as unrealistic as the liberal wise men claim, then Mr. Obama’s goals are even more so. …Since the board is not allowed by law to restrict treatments, ask seniors to pay more, or raise taxes or the retirement age, it can mean only one thing: arbitrarily paying less for the services seniors receive, via fiat pricing. …Now Mr. Obama wants to give the board the additional power of automatic sequester to enforce its dictates, meaning that it would have the legal authority to prevent Congress from appropriating tax dollars. In other words, Congress would be stripped of any real legislative role in favor of an unaccountable body of experts. …the board will decide “what works” and apply it through regulation to all of American medicine. …As a practical matter, the more likely outcome is the political rationing of care for the elderly, as now occurs in Britain… Messrs. Ryan and Obama agree that Medicare spending must decline, and significantly. The difference is that Mr. Ryan would let seniors decide which private Medicare-financed insurance policies to buy based on their own needs, while Mr. Obama wants Americans to accept the commands of 15 political appointees who will never stand for election.

Even though I play senior softball, I’m not a senior citizen by Medicare standards. But when I reach that age, I know what I’ll decide if my choice is “privatization” or a “death panel.”

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I’ve commented before about the sub-par government-run healthcare system in the United Kingdom, including patients dying of malnutrition, patients suffering needless pain and discomfort, and patients dying from poor care (additional examples at this link).

I’ve even commented on the NHS wasting money on politically correct nonsense while letting patient care deteriorate.

Now we have another distasteful example showing why it is a big mistake to put bureaucrats in charge of health care. This BBC story is a sobering look at America’s future with a government-run healthcare system. 

The NHS is failing to treat elderly patients in England with care, dignity and respect, an official report says. The Health Service Ombudsman came to the conclusion after carrying out an in-depth review of 10 cases. The ombudsman, which deals with serious complaints against the NHS, said the patients – aged over 65 – suffered unnecessary pain, neglect and distress. Charities said the findings were “sickening”, while the government admitted improvement was needed. …Several themes became clear from the ombudsman’s analysis. Half the people featured did not consume adequate food or water during their time in hospital. Some were left in soiled or dirty clothes. …In another case, a cancer patient wanted to be discharged to die at home. When his daughter arrived to collect him, she found him sitting behind a closed curtain in distress. He had been left for several hours in pain and desperate to go to the toilet. He was unable to ask for help because he was so dehydrated that he could not speak or swallow.

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