- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

Freshman Sen. H. Clinton, D-N.Y., gave her first Senate speech on health care. Not that anyone rejoiced. Demagogy and harebrained ideas will take a politician far, but Hillary overdid it during her husband's first term when she appointed herself Health Czar.

Hillary argued that a government takeover of health care would improve health care. A government takeover requires eliminating patients' choice of doctors and doctors' choice of treatments. People caught on, and Hillary's project went down in flames.

Democrats approach health care the way they approach tax cuts and every issue — in terms of class warfare. The rich have health care; the poor don't, so taxpayers must provide it for them.

When government provides health care, it becomes a budget item and subject to cost control. Before long, cost control crowds out health care.

Government's two main health programs are Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the indigent. These programs have devastated the practice of medicine and reduced the respect for life.

Until government health programs introduced cost control into the equation, the Hippocratic oath governed medical ethics. The patient was primary, and the doctor's duty was to give the best care possible and to save the life of the patient.

This is no longer the case. A new bioethics has developed. It teaches that some people are obliged to die because they cost more to care for than they are worth to society. Insurance companies, HMOs and government budgeters force doctors to ration care according to the patient's worth and prospects.

To make their case seem reasonable, bioethicists argue that it is cost effective to give a young Einstein full of future promise premium care, whereas massive expenditures to keep alive a terminally ill 80-year-old are a waste of resources.

But it is a slippery slope when one life is no longer worth as much as another. Worth and prospects are subjective. A person's worth cannot be judged bureaucratically by cost-cutters, and a person's prospects are not independent of the quality of care. Most cases fall in gray areas and don't come under the rubric of the black and white example above.

Once doctors are pried lose from the Hippocratic oath, they become dispensers of death rather than sustainers of life.

Doctors are already compromised by abortion. Feminists succeeded in turning a heinous crime into a woman's right to kill her offspring even as the child is being born. This “advance” in women's rights is at the expense of life and calls into question the sanctity of other lives that are inconvenient to someone or to society. If a baby of unknown talent and prospect can be terminated because the child is inconvenient for the mother, consider the much greater inconvenience of an elderly patient's demands for health care and sustenance.

Social Security and Medicare make enormous demands on the federal budget, while draining taxpayers through the payroll tax. The new bioethics, which has spread from university philosophy departments into medical schools and health-care management, does not justify the waste of resources on “worn-out” people.

Just as abortion has become the answer to inconvenient life at its beginning, euthanasia is becoming the answer to inconvenient life at its ending.

Anyone who thinks his life is going to be respected as he grows old can wise up by reading “The Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America” by Wesley J. Smith.

The doctor's traditional concern for his patient can still be found in private practice. But such practices are dwindling. The expansion of malpractice liabilities, regulatory and paperwork burdens, and insurance companies that dictate the prices of medical services are forcing doctors into HMOs, where they are employees of a cost-conscious bureaucratic organization.

Pay incentives and red tape associated with treatment approvals force doctors to treat patients with regard to cost. This means that expensive procedures and treatments are rationed and that the most efficacious treatments are often denied until it is too late.

The destruction of the doctor-patient relationship and erosion of the Hippocratic oath are direct consequences of do-gooders who think they can help people by having government subsidize medical care.

The unintended consequence is euthanasia.

A Patients' Bill of Rights won't help. Lawsuits cannot restore the doctor-patient relationship or bring back the authority of the Hippocratic oath. If you want to save your life, get government completely out of your health care.

Dr. Roberts' latest book, “The Tyranny of Good Intentions,” has just been released by Prima Publishers.

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