Helpful hints in the healthcare rationing debate

July 9, 2010 

Hi there,

One of the really cool things about being a journalist is that you need not actually know very much. You just report what other people said and did in a more or less colourful way. In fact, as a famous British war correspondent once pointed out, “tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner” and “tout pardonner” makes dull copy.

Of course, one needs to comprehend something, especially in bioethics, where some -- all actually -- of the issues are so thorny and controversial. But I frankly confess to being baffled by the angry American debate over healthcare rationing. Is it being thrifty or is it violating human rights?

I am grateful to Jacob M. Appel, who writes for a sterling bioethical journal called The Huffington Post, for enlightening me. In a recent contribution he makes the argument for rationing in the starkest possible terms: let’s unplug patients in a permanent vegetative state. Caring for them costs too much. (See below.)

When it is framed in such black and white terms, it is not difficult for me to make up my mind – at least at the outer margins of the debate. I doubt that the Obama Administration will be using Mr Appel as a consultant, but at least I now see what is at stake. So thanks, Jacob.

What do you think? Make a comment.


Michael Cook



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