Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Peter Singer: We can play God with healthcare

Princeton ethicist Peter Singer recently discussed rationing of health care in the New York Times.
"Some will object that this discriminates against people with disabilities. If we return to the hypothetical assumption that a year with quadriplegia is valued at only half as much as a year without it, then a treatment that extends the lives of people without disabilities will be seen as providing twice the value of one that extends, for a similar period, the lives of quadriplegics. That clashes with the idea that all human lives are of equal value. The problem, however, does not lie with the concept of the quality-adjusted life-year, but with the judgment that, if faced with 10 years as a quadriplegic, one would prefer a shorter lifespan without a disability. Disability advocates might argue that such judgments, made by people without disabilities, merely reflect the ignorance and prejudice of people without disabilities when they think about people with disabilities. We should, they will very reasonably say, ask quadriplegics themselves to evaluate life with quadriplegia. If we do that, and we find that quadriplegics would not give up even one year of life as a quadriplegic in order to have their disability cured, then the QALY method does not justify giving preference to procedures that extend the lives of people without disabilities over procedures that extend the lives of people with disabilities."
Clearly, then, my mother, in her seventies, who has inoperable stage 4 cancer and is on expensive chemotherapy to prolong her life, would be cut off to die. And that 's only the beginning of the problem.

All of us who have children with special needs must be advocates for them in this Culture of Death in which we live. If not us, then who will stand up for them?

Peter Singer has a long editorial in the New York Times explaining why our children may be denied certain procedures in the new health care bill. He uses twisted logic and denies that all human life is equal. He said that we are in a position to determine who has quality of life, and should receive treatment.
A child like mine with Down syndrome or one with Cystic Fibrosis may not make it through the quality of life assesment.
Peter Singer has suggested that parents have several weeks after a child is born to decide to kill him. He has said that chimpanzees are more intelligent than disabled children. This is the mentality of a Princeton ethics professor, the type who may very well be on the committee which deterimines if your child receives health care.We have to oppose the health care plan NOW.
It is up for a vote soon.
This letter is a great way to do so:

July 21, 2009

The Honorable Henry Reid The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Speaker of the House
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable John Boehner
Senate Minority Leader House Minority Leader
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Max Baucus The Honorable Henry Waxman
Senate Committee on Finance House Committee on Energy
Chairman and Commerce Chairman
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Grassley The Honorable Joe Barton
Senate Committee on Finance House Committee on Energy
Ranking Member and Commerce Ranking Member
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Robert Casey The Honorable Mark Pryor
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mary Landrieu
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Sen. Reid, Sen. McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Boehner, Sen. Baucus, Rep. Waxman, Sen. Grassley, Rep. Barton, Sen. Casey, Sen. Pryor, and Sen. Landrieu,
Among the deliberations about health care reform, the best interests of all Americans must be considered, especially the 49.7 million citizens who live with disabilities. If not drafted carefully, a government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan would endanger those citizens with disabilities as decisions about patient care could be made based primarily on cost.

For people with disabilities, the proposed nationalized healthcare plan is a direct threat to the essential and timely care that those families and patients need. Please consider the following examples of how nationalized health care can hurt persons with disabilities, including cutting their life expectancies:
a) The average American with Cystic Fibrosis enjoys a life expectancy rate of 37 years, compared to an Irish patient’s 27 years.
b) Within Great Britain’s nationalized system, the British Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Trust documents that 0 of the 38 British CF centers reported that they receive enough funding to provide government-recommended levels of patient care.
c) In another report, 66% of British Cystic Fibrosis nurses said that they had seen treatments denied on grounds of cost.
d) A reported 14% of British patients wait almost a year for treatment after being referred by a general practitioner.
e) The British National Health Service (NHS) reports that 54% of NHS Trusts leave disabled children waiting 5 months for a wheelchair.

Many of these vulnerable patients under nationalized systems are not even allowed onto a waiting list; they are often denied potentially life-saving procedures outright. Documented examples include:

a) In Great Britain, there have been numerous cases of hospitals refusing to perform corrective surgeries for the 40% of babies born with both Down Syndrome and congenital heart defects, despite the fact that in many cases this procedure is necessary to prevent the child from experiencing gradual heart failure.
b) The Scottish Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society found that 1/3 of all MS patients in the United Kingdom have been denied access to specialists, and 2/3 of neurology centers even lack standard guidelines for the types of services which should be available to MS patients. Financial concerns under a nationalized system drive many health authorities to refuse funding for drug prescriptions which have been shown to dramatically improve the quality of life for victims of this disease. This leaves the 85,000 Scottish families with relatives suffering with MS in a continual state of concern for their loved ones’ care.
c) A recent Parliamentary report reveals that some patients with Parkinson’s disease in Northern Ireland and Wales wait years for such needed medical care despite leading experts’ advice that specialist appointments are vital for victims of Parkinson’s.
d) Children with Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18) may face threats similar to Luke Winston-Jones who at 6 months had surpassed the life expectancy for babies diagnosed with Edwards Syndrome. He was challenged by the North West Wales NHS Trust who appealed to England’s High Court to rule on whether they had the right to refuse to provide Luke additional treatment.

Amid difficult economic times, Congress must not cut corners at the expense of the most vulnerable of our society.

We, the undersigned, urge you and your colleagues to seriously consider the needs of those 1 in 5 Americans with special disabilities in this country. Our very lives depend upon access to our doctors and their services in a timely manner which could be jeopardized should the current proposal be signed into law.



Read the entire story at the New York Times. Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

I've already sent my letters to my congressional representatives opposing health care reform. I also find Peter Singer morally repugnant.

The one thing I can't answer (and help me, if you can) is his charge that health care is already rationed based on ability to pay. So, if you have good health insurance, you are provided better treatment that someone who does not. That result doesn't reflect a belief in the equality of every human life.

How do we answer that charge if we truly believe every human life is of equal dignity and value?

Monica Crumley said...

Interesting post. Peter Singer is absolutely heartless. What would he say if he became quadriplegic and had all his brain function in tact? Is he still useful or is his life less worthy than ours?