There were — and are — no “death panels” in President Obama’s health-insurance reform legislation. No panel of federal bureaucrats is going to sit down and decide whether Trig, Sarah Palin’s son, deserves to live or die because he has Down’s Syndrome, as his mother once suggested.
In fact, that whole false “death panel” controversy illustrates the intellectual bankruptcy of much of this country’s political debate as well as our inability to deal with complex moral and financial issues.
Consider the example of Provenge.
Provenge is a cancer vaccine, a very expensive cancer vaccine. It has been approved by the FDA for treatment of patients with advanced stages of prostate cancer. It is expensive in part because it cannot be mass produced — each dose is prepared individually, using a patient’s own immune cells.
Provenge does not cure prostate cancer. In trials, it succeeded in extending the lifespan of those with advanced prostate cancer by an average of 4.1 months. The treatment costs $93,000 per patient.
As The Washington Post points out in a story on Provenge and its implications, most men with advanced prostate cancer tend to be older, meaning that in most cases, Medicare would pick up the cost of the drug.
Should your government cover that cost? Do you believe that to be an acceptable use of taxpayers’ money? Other drugs are expected to come on line that raise similar issues, compounding Medicare’s already dire financial challenges.
If $93,000 is an acceptable price for buying four months of life, would $193,000 also be acceptable? How about $293,000?
And understand, of course, that the point at which you say no, it is not worth it, becomes the point at which you are rationing health care.
Would you be willing to deny a patient access to Provenge?
Would you be willing to deny your own father access to Provenge?
How would a compassionate society handle such an issue?
How would a fiscally prudent society handle such an issue?
I’ll be curious to see how this debate goes.