November 30, 2011

PAUL HSIEH: Screening For Terrorists vs. Screening For Cancer:

As the holiday travel season approaches, millions of American air passengers will become painfully reacquainted with Transportation Security Agency (TSA) screening measures. Passengers must submit to either medically unnecessary X-rays or intrusive gropings. Yet in the realm of health care the federal government has adopted a new policy of discouraging routine screening tests for many cancers. Although these two policies may seem superficially contradictory, they demonstrate an underlying common theme of the government seeking ever-greater control over our bodies and our freedom.

Screening travelers and screening patients share some common features. In both cases the goal is to sort through a large, mostly-normal population to identify the relatively few problem cases — either an undetected terrorist or a hidden cancer.

The TSA’s current approach of mass passenger screening has long angered many Americans.

Indeed it has.