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Life Issues and Healthcare Reform--Skeel

 A key issue with both life issues that have flared up in the healthcare debate—“death panels” and funding for abortion—is coercion. If healthcare reform requires doctors to consult with their elderly or other patients about end of life healthcare options, and facilitates funding for abortion, will patients be pressured to forego costly life preserving interventions or to have abortions?

I think the danger is greater with abortion. Although pro choice advocates often scorn the claim that doctors pressure women to abort, I’m firmly convinced they do. I’ve seen it happen, even in my sheltered little world. It’s easy to see why. If tests show a high risk of problems, a doctor can’t help but fear she’ll be blamed, and possibly face a big malpractice suit. If the doctor is pro-choice, there’s a powerful incentive to push for abortion. Some, perhaps many, do. Any healthcare bill that increases funding for abortion, whether directly or indirectly, will make it easier for doctors to prod more people to have abortions.
With elderly patients, on the other hand, doctors do not have the same perverse incentives. Regardless of which treatment a doctor counsels, she is not likely to be sued by the patient’s family if the patient dies. So long as the doctor with whom the patient consults does not have a financial incentive to steer patients away from life preserving interventions, the risk of coercion is relatively low. 
The death panels have made for dramatic talking points, but I think the more frightening issue is the risk that the coming reforms will mean more money and more pressure for abortion.


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Comments ( 3 )


You said "Although pro choice advocates often scorn the claim that doctors pressure women to abort, I’m firmly convinced they do."

At StandUpGirl.com we talk to thousands of visitors a year about teenage pregnancy and abortion. From those conversations I can verify that doctors do commonly pressure young women to abort, and not just for medical problems. You can find stories about it on the site, contributed by visitors. Our Facebook page also provides examples.

Something you did not mention is an even more pervasive force. Mothers and boyfriends, in that order, put enormous pressure (eg, kicked out of the house, physical threats, intimidation, isolation) on young women to have an abortion. Public payment for "the procedure" will only increase the pressure to "take care of it" with a "free operation".

If there is one thing we've learned in 9 years of operation, it is that the idea that the abortion decision is strictly up to the woman involved is nonsense. Young women have enormous pressure put on them to abort, and the imprimatur of the federal government health care plan will only increase that pressure.

Where will young women get advice supporting that clear, still inner voice urging them to choose life?

Paul Harmon
StandUpGirl Foundation

I certainly agree that there will be more and more pressure both from doctors and ON doctors to push for abortions. The litigation issue is real but hardly the biggest factor.

My brother in-law was born with Down's Syndrom 56 years ago. At that time the main "treatment" for children with severe disabilities was warehousing and basically neglecting them emotionally until they died, usually at a very young age. Medical interventions were unheard of, much less educational and rehabilitative services.

Those interventions, now commonplace in America, have changed lives dramatically, both for the disabled and for their families.

But those cost money; medical dollars as well as educational and vocational dollars, much of what already comes from government funds and much MORE WILL come from the government if Obama gets his way.

So now you have government "officials" looking over the shoulders of docs who DO honor life and believe that all life is sacred. How many disabled babies are those doctors "allowing" to be delivered? What is the net cost to the government coffers?

I think you get the drift.

But lets take that same rationale and apply to to elders. Oh OH!
Let's say I'm 75 and in reasonably good shape but start to have some heart issues. Maybe I need a valve replacement or a bypass.

I'm on Medicare and Social Security and whatever else they plan on calling socialistic medicine for all of us.

First of all, a bypass is very expensive. If successful it could add YEARS to my life....YEARS of more medicare and social security payments and even more socialized medicine payments. (And don't tell me that medicare is the same as Obama's plan. That is hogwash. Anyone who thinks that needs to READ the thing!)

With the increased drain on government coffers (we haven't even talked about illegal aliens getting in on this) there will be great pressure to deny these kinds of life-saving treatments and probably even treatments that merely augment the quality of life like knee and hip replacements, to anyone over the age of 50.

This is not a "made up threat" from the "far right". This is what happens. All one needs to do is talk with folks from Canada or the UK.

But I think a better measure of a government run health care system (and that is a euphemism or maybe even an oxymoron) would be a good look at the Postal System. Yes, there are a handful of post offices that seem to be semi-efficient and run by people who care about their job and the results they get, but there are way MORE that are staffed by lazy, bored, angry, dissatisfied workers who disdain the public they are supposed to serve and who could not care less about the quality of their work. Is that how ANY of us really want our health care system to be run???

And how about the danger of political favors being the deciding factor of who gets or DOES NOT GET medical treatment? You think this is unlikely? Think again. All of this would be made possible...maybe even probable by appointed medical "czars" and appointed "health care panels". The possibilities are beyond scary!

I was in DC this weekend and saw quite a few of the protesters on their way to their big gathering.

I saw one nice old lady with a sign about how the government should stop taking money from her grandchildren. I am assuming she wasn't there to argue that Medicare should be given only to those who can't afford their own healthcare or that the retirement age should be raised for Social Security.

My dad once told me that if he is ever on life support and "the money could be better spent elsewhere" that that would be his time to go. I would be very interested to know how much money is spent on prolonging a well-lived life another 6 months spent in pain. I would think this is particularly true for those that believe this life isn't the end of our existence. Is such treatment always worth the cost?

If taxpayers are footing the bill, frankly I would like some cost-benefit analysis to enter into the equation. If they didn't like such an arrangement, rich seniors can simply buy a supplemental policy. That might stop the government from taking away some money from their grandchildren.