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NRL News
Page 5
June 2010
Volume 37
Issue 8-9


BY WAnda Franz, Ph.D.

Under the new health care law, it is not just the unborn who are threatened by the cold hand of government. Now it is also we, the already living, who are in danger, because the inevitable result of the new health care law will be the rationing of medical care. And rationed care leads to involuntary euthanasia of the elderly and of those whose “quality of life” is considered too poor for modern medical care.

The problem is, of course, that the new health care law “over-promises and under-funds.” And when the government rations health care—by making it illegal or impossible to choose lifesaving treatment and nutrition—it imposes a form of involuntary euthanasia.

In the minds of anti-life “progressives,” giving equally shabby and life-denying care to everyone who is under the government’s thumb is the “fair” and “equitable” thing to do. Apparently, our “progressive” friends have missed the numerous accounts in the British press (see the Drudge Report web site) about the horrible treatment of elderly patients in Britain’s government-controlled National Health Service. These are not examples of “fair” treatment—they are examples of callous neglect and often deadly mistreatment of elderly patients.

The public’s persistent opposition to the new health care law rests in large part on an intuitive understanding that governmental overreach inevitably has very bad consequences. In this case, the clumsy and wasteful governmental bureaucracy will impose itself even more than it already does on our medical care. As I already said: the new health care law over-promises and under-funds.

Even worse, the law directs the so-called “Independent Payment Advisory Board” to propose measures designed to force private health care spending (what you and I are allowed to choose to spend to save the lives of our own family members) below the rate of medical inflation. Bureaucrats in the federal Health and Human Services department are empowered to implement these recommendations by imposing so-called “quality standards” on all health care providers if they want to participate in any qualified health insurance plans—even nongovernmental ones. Thus, the government will tell the health profession what diagnostic tests and medical care are permitted—and what are not.

Throughout the debate on health care legislation, the anti-life congressional leaders were repeatedly forced to disguise and camouflage abortion and rationing provisions in the law through confusing and contorted language. But of course, even if this or that particular detail in the law is changed, a government-controlled health care system inevitably ends up rationing care because it is limited by general fund tax revenues. And when we surrender our responsibility to make our own health decisions to an inefficient bureaucracy, rationing will ultimately be imposed on us.

During last year’s spirited debate on health care, several Catholic bishops expressed their concerns about the government’s excessive control of the proposed health care system. They objected to the scheme because it violates the “principle of subsidiarity.” The principle holds that the state should respect the dignity and freedom of the individual so that individuals can do what they can do for themselves. Next in line is the family, then the close community, then the larger local community, and only then the state.

Pope Benedict XVI observed that “the State which would provide for everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.” He also said, ”We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything.”

To most of us it is obvious that a ponderous bureaucracy will misallocate resources that otherwise we could have used for our health care. And when resources are wasted and the law constrains us from using our own money to pay for our care, rationing is inevitable. An all-controlling government will ration in the end because “pretty soon they will run out of other people’s money,” as one British politician once observed.

The principle of subsidiarity was formally announced in 1931 during a great economic crisis and a time of increasing threats from totalitarian and authoritarian states. The general principle, however, goes back to the social teaching of the Christian Church since the fifth Century.

To us Americans, the core teachings the principle of subsidiarity appear as American as apple pie. Personal freedom and responsibility, the freedom of families and local communities to run their lives are at the very core of the American idea. This is how we are meant to run our lives.

To learn more about the threat of euthanasia, I urge you to get more information by visiting the website of NRLC’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics ( Robert Powell had a cancerous lung tumor as a baby. Intensive radiation treatment saved his life, but the tumor had invaded his spinal cord and left him a paraplegic for the rest of his life. Robert grew up heroically battling his disability. He attended college, became an insurance mathematician—and an ardent pro-lifer. For many years he served as NRLC’s vice president, until his death at age 45 in 1995.

Some physicians who had seen Powell felt he would be better off dead. He was denied treatment several times. Powell recounted a trauma room visit as follows:

I had a fever, a swollen belly and (other problems). Their suggestion was to take two Tylenol and go home. My physician refused to come to the emergency room to see me. Because of the persistence of my sister, who is a registered nurse, and other pro-life family members who were on hand, I was admitted to the hospital. At 11:00 p.m. they were drawing fluid off my lungs just to allow me to breathe. The treatment I received in the trauma center was not the treatment a nondisabled person would have received. Because of the aggressiveness of my family, I received the appropriate care.”

Now look at this very recent headline from the British Telegraph (8/18/2010): “US breast cancer drug decision ‘marks start of death panels.’” It looks like rationing is about to become the general health care policy.

Work hard, work hard for the repeal of the new health care law.