07 November 2011

And So It Goes

How much do you want to bet that this will be used to determine treatment options under a system of universal health care?

A Spanish company announced this summer that it can help determine when people will die by using a blood sample, a $700 test, and research that earned three American geneticists the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009. Though the test has its critics, and though it won’t offer an exact date for one’s death, it does promise to reduce uncertainty about longevity by examining a tiny part of DNA that reveals biological age as opposed to chronological age. Successive generations of the test are likely to improve in predictive power.

If the government is going to bear the costs of providing health care for its citizens, it will have to find a way to ration it, and it will have to find a way to cut costs.  End-of-life testing will be an inevitable feature of this reality, ultimately because resources are scarce.  There has to be a way to ration them, and end-of-life testing will be appealing to bureaucrats because it provides a sense of objectivity about deciding who gets what treatment.  Maybe death panels aren’t so far-fetched after all.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting post. But I think there is a gap in this reasoning:

    >it will have to find a way to cut costs. End-of-life testing will be an inevitable feature of this reality, ultimately because resources are scarce

    The premise is certainly correct (costs must be cut) but I don't agree that this, or any other scaremongering sort of things, are the only way to do that. A much better thing to do would be to break up the medical associations, disempower them from creating those (artificially) scarce resources you're talking about. Medicine is NOT innately any more difficult to learn than any other subject, and if there's one thing governments seem to have in great abundance it's young people looking for jobs.

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  2. @GMF- I suppose that this line of reasoning is prone to the informal "slippery slope' fallacy.

    It would be more accurate to say that End-of-life testing is the most probable feature of a universal health care system. Resources are not infinite, no matter what politicians say. There will have to be a way to ration resources. End-of-life testing seems to be the most fair way of determining eligibility for care because it is quite utilitarian in its method, which usually appeals to the policy wonks that decide things like the allocation of scarce resources in a command economy.

    "A much better thing to do would be to break up the medical associations, disempower them from creating those (artificially) scarce resources you're talking about."

    I agree, and would suggest eliminating the income tax exemption for employer-paid health insurance as well as mandatory coverage. However, these things seem highly unlikely at this point since the government is trending quite strongly to a command economy for medicine.

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