There are good reasons why Americans should care about this way of thinking. Former Senator Tom Daschle’s book, generally regarded as the blueprint for ObamaCare, praised NICE and recommended we follow a similar approach in the United States. Donald Berwick, who is currently in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, has also praised the NICE way of deciding who gets care and who doesn’t.They are not alone. Most health policy insiders — certainly those in the Obama administration — believe in health care rationing.
Americans should be thankful that in this country there is more respect for life. But even here we have a rationing problem. In fact, there enough people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States to fill a good sized football stadium, twice over. Each day, an average of 75 people receive organ transplants. However, an average of 20 people die each day because of the shortage of donated organs.
Which brings us back to Steve Jobs. I don’t need to tell you how important he was to our culture. His devices helped change the way consumers buy music, read books and enjoy movies. He was considered by many to be the greatest corporate leader of the last half century. He was compared to Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Thomas Edison.
Plus, Jobs’ end-of-life care enabled him to keep pushing the envelope. Because of his never-ending devotion to innovation, we got the iPhone after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the iPad after his liver transplant.
So here is my question of the day: Should government (or a bureaucratic system sanctioned by government) be able to pick and choose among the potential organ recipients, based on their contribution to society? Or should the decision be made by lottery? Or in some other way?
Most economists I know think there is a better solution — one that doesn’t involve having to make life or death decisions about end-of-life care. If we were willing to compensate people for donating their organs in the case of an unforeseen death, more people would be willing to sign advance directives allowing their organs to be used to save the lives of fellow human beings. In fact, studies show that the need for organs can apparently be satisfied by willing donors for a price of around $15,000 a year.
In addition to Steve Jobs’ technological contributions, a change in the way that we address the issue of organ donation may be yet another lasting legacy.