Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Healthcare "Reform": A "Shovel Ready" Job?

"The whole trial is out of order!" That's what Arthur Kirkland, the firebrand attorney portrayed by Al Pacino in And Justice for All, shouts in the courtroom in the classic scene that concludes the movie.

That's kind of what we felt upon hearing that a Minnesota judge ordered a 13-year-old boy with Hodgkin's lymphoma to submit to chemotherapy against his will.

Admittedly, before it happens (and hopefully it never will), no one really knows how he or she would react to a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, including what treatment to undergo.

And memo to lawmakers of both parties: The U.S. has made incredible advances in medical technology, especially in emergency situations, thanks to the freemarket, but "healthcare" is not merely about pharmaceutical drugs or surgery.

But don't you find it disturbing that a court would force someone to take chemicals into their body? Chemotherapy can destroy the patient's immune system, so it's completely understandable that a similarly situated family would resist this treatment. And perhaps Constitutionally protected religious liberty is also implicated here. Does chemotherapy offer a better ultimate outcome for the boy? An Internet search will come up with alternative, more holistic-oriented therapies for various conditions. Ironically, some physicians and other healers who have had legitimate successes following alternative protocols wind up in the crosshairs of the regulatory authorities.

Perhaps engaging in some degree of hyperbole, Mike Adams, the self-described "Health Ranger," opines the following about this case on his Natural News website:
There is not a single cancer patient that has ever been cured by chemotherapy. Zero. They don't exist. Not a single documented case in the history of western medicine.
And why is that? Because conventional medicine operates from the false belief that there is no cure for cancer! Thus, anyone offering a cure (or assisting in the body's own natural reversal of the disease) is immediately dismissed as a quack. Meanwhile, the real quackery is found in the pushing of toxic chemotherapy chemicals that are injected into the bodies of patients and called "treatment" when they should really be called "torture." (Nancy Pelosi, by the way, was never briefed on the fact that chemotherapy is torture...)
What's most disturbing in all of this, of course, is that the state is now forcing parents to poison their own children, requiring they hand over money to Big Pharma and conventional cancer treatment centers. The concept of freedom of choice has been stolen away from parents. The idea of protecting your children from toxic chemicals has been not just nullified, but made illegal!
We have no idea of the family dynamic in this particular instance, or whether the parents have fully looked into legitimate alternatives. And who knows how this situation will eventually play out. We wish the family all the best. But leaving aside this particular controversy, the larger issue is why not explore all alternatives, aside from chemicals, perhaps proceeding on a parallel conventional-holistic track? And doesn't an oncologist have a moral if not ethical duty to explore all modalities beyond chemotherapy and radiation?

On a related subject, it seems every day there is news about pharmaceutical drugs yanked off the market by the FDA because of devastating side effects? Ironically, regardless of which administration holds power, the FDA seems to be obsessed with trying to regulate the nutritional supplement industry. Seems like they should concentrate their resources on the drug regulation.

(In general, while we're in no way, shape or form giving any kind of health advice, some supplements made by reputable companies with quality ingredients can be worthwhile, some with less potent ingredients aren't. And some alternative healing techniques work for some people and not for others. But hasn't it been established that many expensive drugs don’t work for many people?)

Doctors and insurance companies have a lot of explaining to do about skyrocketing medical costs. For a variety of reasons, health insurance costs in particular are out of control, especially for any worker who has been laid off and been forced to pay for expensive COBRA benefits. The so-called stimulus package provides temporary partial reimbursement for COBRA, but that's just a band aid. So health insurance portability must be addressed.

So there needs to be sensible, structural insurance reform, but orchestrated by and in the private sector. (Another issue for another time is whether a healthy citizen should be forced to subsidize the costs of those who have led self-destructive lifestyles, or those who are here illegally.)

Not to get too metaphysical, but there is a strong mind-body connection in staying healthy, and millions of Americans have had good results with alternative approaches. Not every effective protocol shows up in a stuffy, peer-reviewed medical journal.

Again, leaving this particular cancer case aside, if really want to help people stay healthy and prevent disease, why not provide insurance reimbursement for more holistic techniques on the front end, thereby avoiding catastrophic costs on the back end?

Government-run healthcare, a/k/a single payer or socialized medicine, is not the answer. It doesn't make sense. Why would liberals and Democrats and their compliant trained seals in the news media (those that claim to be "pro choice") want to foist a system on this country that has failed in every other country that it has been tried. In fact, many of those systems are on the verge of bankruptcy. In fact, patients from other countries under national healthcare flee their system to be treated in the U.S. The logical extension of single payer is rationing and waiting lists for both routine and non-routine services. Is that an upgrade over the current system with all its faults? As P.J. O'Rourke famously said, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."

The Oscar-winning movie The Barbarian Invasions gives an unsettling glimpse of the botched nature of the government-run Canadian healthcare system. The excellent film (which somehow slipped past Hollywood's politically correct gatekeepers) centers on a Montreal college professor with terminal cancer who seeks to reconcile with his estranged son, or perhaps vice versa. In one pertinent scene, to get his father out of a chaotic hospital ward, the son must bribe sullen and corrupt union bosses to provide his father with a private room.

Government-run "healthcare"? The state, in the form of judges or other bureaucrats, intervening in family medical decisions? That's not reform we can believe in.

More on nationalized medical care here and here.