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Letting Old People Die is Not a Good Way to Fund Health Care

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Recently, prominent liberal health care mouthpiece and former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm openly discussed rationing as a financial solution to help fund universal health care, or as he puts it, "Old people have a duty to die and get out of the way." (Wesley Smith has a good post on Richard Lamm.)

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and economic adviser to President Obama, also holds this viewpoint. Here he is speaking at UC-Berkeley:

We're going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive…so we're going to let you die…

I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid — we already have a lot of bargaining leverage — to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. What that means, less innovation and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market which means you are probably not going to live much longer than your parents. Thank you.

This is a foundational policy for liberals to keep their proposed health care system afloat. This is plain stupid to me because how can you determine when it's the end of life for someone? How do you define "old age" when life expectancy continues to climb higher and the differences between each ethnic profile, socio-economic background, and lifestyle habits create such a moving target for each individual? Let's say there is a second generation Okinawan American (Japan) who maintained the same dietary habits as her parents and will live to 100 years or greater. Will she be treated the same at 80 years as a fourth generation Irish American who is 80 but with a life expectancy of 78 years?

Another example is from a recent situation from the UK (hat tip to WSJ's James Taranto):

A grandfather who beat cancer was wrongly told the disease had returned and was left to die at a hospice which pioneered a controversial "death pathway."

Doctors said there was nothing more they could do for 76-year-old Jack Jones, and his family claim he was denied food, water and medication except painkillers.

He died within two weeks. Tests after his death found that his cancer had actually not come back and he was in fact suffering from pneumonia brought on by a chest infection.

To his family's horror, they were told he could have recovered if he'd been given the correct treatment.

Nice to see the effectiveness of similar policies in action. Seriously, this is just a stupid idea.

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About Bernard Moon

  • El Bicho,

    I admitted my mistake. My intent was not to misrepresent which I explained. So what do you think about the issue of rationing?

  • as if it’s much better to [Edited] misrepresent the quotes he uses in his writing

  • John,

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] I was not lying about those quotes. I explained where I sourced them. [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]


  • John Wilson

    So Bernard Moon was fibbing about the Lamm and Reich quotes?

    I guess that puts Mr. Moon under a cloud of suspicion for the future.

  • Bernard, your entire argument hinges on those (as it turns out, spurious) secondary sources. That was my objection.

    Lamm’s argument, as I said, is good. You have to respect someone who takes an unpopular or controversial position and argues it with integrity.

    As per rationing as such: I don’t think it’s necessary. The scaling back of treatment is already practiced where it’s appropriate. The final decision on whether to withhold treatment should rest with the patient (or, if the patient is incapable, his or her family) – based on medical advice, which in an ideal world shouldn’t be loaded one way or the other.

    On the whole, I think these things tend to self-regulate.

  • Dreadful,

    I apologize for the misinformation on Lamm and Reich. I receive Lamm’s reference from Wesley Smith’s piece and Reich’s speech from YouTube.

    Regardless, what do you think about Lamm’s recent post at Huffington?

    For me personally, I hardly agree with such policies. You attack my sources, but don’t discuss the issue at hand.

  • Zedd,

    It’s a private company, but I can say there are some holdings in assisted living facilities.

    Also I would hardly call myself partisan on this issue. It seems that your comments are politically driven. Are you some political hack for the DNC?

    You don’t address Lamm’s recent op-ed on rationing in the Huffington Post. What do you think “rationing” is in his op-ed?

  • Well, what do you know?

    It seems Bernard took Robert Reich out of context as well…

  • Bernard, would you mind showing us where in Governor Lamm’s well-argued article on rationing he states that old people “have a duty to die and get out of the way”?

    Oh, wait. He didn’t. That quote actually comes from an interview of many years’ vintage, in which he was expressing his opinion on a completely different topic: longevity/immortality research – which he thought was a bad thing for biological reasons.

    Constructive discussions don’t often tend to involve taking people’s opinions out of context. Just a bit of advice.

  • Zedd


    “We’re going to have to, if you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It’s too expensive…so we’re going to let you die…”

    Sorry to burst your bubble, doctors already do that. Yes even REPUBLICAN doctors do it. It’s been part of medical practice since blood letting.

    Age plays a role in what procedures are given to patients. If there was one kidney available and there were two perfectly matched patients, one 22yrs old and the other 82yrs old, who would get it? Stop the ridiculous partisan nonsense. Pull away from Fox and read something worthwhile and maybe you’ll stop writing stuff like this.

  • Zedd

    holding company consisting of entities in technology, media, research & consulting, health care, investment boutique and real estate.


  • Richard Lamm and Robert Reich and similar people with borderline psychopathic antisocial personalities should all be denied healthcare before the old folks. Hopefully they both have vasectomies and won’t propagate the planet.

    I’d rather see any elderly person live two more months than watch characters like these guys live two more days spreading their vile opinions. Guess we all have our own priorities.

    Good quote Jenna: “Mahatma Gandhi, when asked about what he thought of Western Civilisation, replied, ‘I think it would be a good idea’.”

  • Jenna

    “Old people have a duty to die and get out of the way”. You are too old and useless and it’s too expensive to let you live.

    This kind of attitude and the terms it’s stated in, almost reaches the depths of dehumanisation that was once given to the Negro in the very bad old days. We haven’t really moved on. These attitudes towards the elderly and old, are the first steps in demonising them as negligible and almost sub-human. If this way of thinking becomes common currency, expect to see them being preyed upon on the streets and attacked openly by the anti-social, thugs and those who generally feel inadequate.

    It will also mean that those giving the elderly care in their homes and nursing-homes, will be practically given a licence to treat them across the spectrum from disrespect to downright neglect and cruelty.

    They say the mark of a civilised society is how it behaves to, and treats its weak and the vulnerable.

    Mahatma Gandhi, when asked about what he thought of Western Civilisation, replied, “I think it would be a good idea”.