Schaeffer and Koop predicted "the next candidates for arbitrary reclassification as nonpersons are the elderly." That 30-year-old prophecy, deemed hyperbole and alarmist by many at the time, now seems to be coming true. In 1993, Hillary Clinton, as chair of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, pushed the bureaucratic-heavy Clinton Health Care Plan, quickly labeled "HillaryCare," which was long on government oversight, short on patient choice. A Democratic Congress defeated it a year later. Now we have the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology and a Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama appear ready to resume their assault on all but the fit and those who do not burden government with their need for treatment. "Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective," writes McCaughey. "The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost-effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council."
I called Koop, who is now 92. He reminded me that in 1988 he had an ailment that left him a quadriplegic. Surgery restored his limbs, but "if I'd lived in England, I would have been nine years too old to have the surgery that saved my life and gave me another 21 years." Koop fears the United States is about to embrace English socialized medicine with government authorities deciding who lives and who dies. He says the idea of government second-guessing doctors sickens him.
Great inhumanities are usually ushered in at the extremes in order to make the public more accepting. Abortion on demand followed the 1973 Roe v. Wade case where Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe, "alleged" she had been raped, resulting in pregnancy. Technology allows people to abort a "defective" baby in the womb, "selectively reduce" implanted embryos to the desired number, or even abort a female when a male is wanted.
Euthanasia will not originate with your beloved grandmother or parents. It will start in a public hospital with a 100-year-old woman who has multiple health problems and "wants" to die so as not to "burden" anyone. Public opinion polls will determine that a majority favor letting -- even helping -- the old girl die.
Yes, there are times when a patient and his family may decide to forego treatment and allow death to occur, but that decision should not be made by a government official. Once that door is opened (as it was with abortion) there will be no closing it and dying will become a patriotic duty when the patient's balance sheet shows a deficit.
They'll probably have a clergyman available to bless the government's decision and make everyone feel better about it.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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