A little over a week ago, Mark Levin took a call on his radio show from Jeff from Chicago. Jeff is a neurosurgeon who had just returned from a meeting in Washington, DC, where fellow members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons were discussing implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Reaction to this call has been spreading on the Internet, and I thought I’d weigh in. I heard this call on his show, and Jeff impressed me as a well-informed, highly principled physician who has high regard for the welfare of his patients.
One of the touted purposes of the Affordable Care Act is that it will control health care costs. But as truly thinking people know, once you remove free market controls from any product or service for which there is any significant demand and where unlimited supply is not an option, rationing will be required to keep the system from going bankrupt. And so this was the discussion at this meeting of the AANS. They discussed a document that was put out by HHS that explained new rules that would pertain to neurological care. Here are excerpts from Jeff’s comments:
“As our population gets older, the majority of our patients are getting over 70. They’ll require stroke therapy, aneurysm therapy, and basically what the document stated is that if you’re over 70 and you come into an emergency room… if you’re on government-supported health care, you’ll get ‘comfort care.'”
Later: “And basically they don’t call them patients, they call them units. And instead of, they call it ‘ethics panels’ or ‘ethics committees,’ would get together and meet and decide where the money would go for hospitals, and basically for patients over 70 years of age, that advanced neurosurgical care was not generally indicated.”
Mark Levin then asked: “So it’s generally going to be denied?”
And Jeff responded: “Yes, absolutely.”
Jeff went on to explain that a lot of his work is trauma-related, and patients can come in at two or three in the morning, but what the rules will require is that an ethics panel of administrators, not physicians, will decide whether a patient should receive care.
My opinion? A truly ethical “ethics panel” would recommend that all these decisions be put back in private hands and that the treating physician be given as much authority as possible to procede, with the consent of the patient or the patient’s immediate family. How much more compassionate and just to allow them to make these decisions, weighing the costs against the benefits. Otherwise, the victims will be any patient over 70, and those requiring emergency surgery.
Those who were pushing Obamacare when it was passed reacted indignantly when Sarah Palin applied the term “death panels” to these “ethics panels.” But that is exactly what they are. And there is no way, with government-funded health care, to get away from these panels. The system wouldn’t be able to operate and stay solvent without them.