If we keeping spending our health care dollars disproportionately on the elderly, we will have little left to spend on children. That makes for an upside-down society that cannot thrive for long.
I happen to think the entire column is worth reading, but if your time (and patience) are short, focus on the grafs in which my brother, a Boston kidney doc, talks about dialysis for the elderly who are already dying:
If resources are limited (and they are), the nation needs to make choices – some more painful than others. My brother, Kevin, a Boston physician who treats kidney disease, talks about the Medicare program that pays for dialysis for anyone with failing kidneys — including the terminally ill. Started in the 1970s to help adults still in the workforce, its fastest-growing population is now over 65, he said. And it costs tens of billions a year.
“It may not be the best use of resources for the frail and infirm elderly, and it also forces many elderly patients to spend their last days in the hospital, rather than at home,” a more comfortable setting, Kevin told me.
Yet, many patients, even octogenarians who don’t expect to recover, find it difficult to turn down the treatment. “And physicians resist having a conversation with patients that recommends they forego dialysis because it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have. It’s easier just to recommend the treatment,” he said.
But those are exactly the adult conversations we ought to be having.
Those will undoubtedly be very painful conversations. But we simply don’t have the money to spend to prolong the life of a terminally ill 87-year-old for a few weeks.