The Twisted Morality of Death Panels
Breaking down Slate's rationalization for letting government pick who lives and who dies.
October 23, 2013 - 9:00 am
Canada has death panels – and that’s a good thing. So reads a headline at Slate, where author Adam Goldenberg defends letting a government committee intervene in healthcare to decide who lives and who dies.
The death panel Goldenberg refers to is Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board, a unique institution among Canada’s jurisdictions which holds the legal authority to supersede healthcare decisions made by next of kin when a patient lays incapacitated.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled in favor of a family seeking to sustain the life of Hassan Rasouli, who fell victim to complications from brain surgery and has remained comatose for three years. Goldenberg writes:
In Canada, with our single-payer health care system, Rasouli’s situation has a very public bottom line: Should taxpayers foot the bill for his family’s indefinite goodbye?
But American critics of Canadian health care will declare that merely asking this question is unacceptable, unethical, even unthinkable—and that it proves that the Canadian system gives doctors a dangerous incentive to kill off their patients as quickly as possible. They are wrong. The Hippocratic Oath’s promise to do no harm still applies. But they are also only wrong in part. When taxpayers provide only a finite number of acute care beds in public hospitals, a patient whose life has all but ended, but whose family insists on keeping her on life support, is occupying precious space that might otherwise house a patient whose best years are still ahead.
The incentives in the American health care system point in the opposite direction. In the United States, keeping an all-but-dead patient alive on life support in a hospital bed generates income for the hospital, for as long as its bills get paid.
Everything wrong with the Left’s view of economics, morality, and healthcare in particular can be observed in that passage. Goldenberg’s analysis ignores any consideration of individual rights.