Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher with a lot of provocative ideas. I don’t always agree with his ideas, although I don’t always disagree, either. He’s the sort of fellow who generates a perspective that’s interesting to think about, but I think sometimes he likes to say outrageous things just to stir the pot. He is alleged to have postulated that maybe it’s OK to euthanize handicapped infants, for example. I don’t know if that’s exactly what he said, and at the moment I’m not interested enough to check it out. However, one may be grateful he’s an academic and not actually in charge of anything.
Anyway, Singer wrote an op ed for the New York Times titled “Why We Must Ration Health Care.” The op ed is a philosophical exercise, not a policy proposal — Singer’s no economist or policy wonk — and he’s basically saying, here’s another way to think about this. His essential point is that people ought to own up to the reality that health care is a commodity with limits and is rationed. He makes the observation that U.S. health care is rationed now, by ability to pay.
Dr. Art Kellermann, associate dean for public policy at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, recently wrote of a woman who came into his emergency room in critical condition because a blood vessel had burst in her brain. She was uninsured and had chosen to buy food for her children instead of spending money on her blood-pressure medicine. In the emergency room, she received excellent high-tech medical care, but by the time she got there, it was too late to save her. …
…When the media feature someone like Bruce Hardy or Jack Rosser, we readily relate to individuals who are harmed by a government agencyâ€™s decision to limit the cost of health care. But we tend not to hear about â€” and thus donâ€™t identify with â€” the particular individuals who die in emergency rooms because they have no health insurance.
This is an excellent observation. I have quibbles about some of Singer’s reasoning, and how he presents his ideas, but still, it’s thought-provoking. However, my first reaction to his headline was “Why Pete Singer Should Shut Up,” because I knew this would enflame the passions of the Right and throw them into a cage-rattling, feces-throwing fit. We don’t need any more of that now. And sure enough, a number of rightie bloggers are having hysterical fits about the headline, although so far none I have seen seem to have actually read Singer’s op ed.
For example, A.J. Strata writes, “Americans Have Succeeded Without Rationing Health Care.” Singer gave one example after another of the way Americans do ration health care, and in fact, ration it even more than the awful European countries with “government run” health care.
Far more Americans reported forgoing health care because of cost. More than half (54 percent) reported not filling a prescription, not visiting a doctor when sick or not getting recommended care. In comparison, in the United Kingdom the figure was 13 percent, and in the Netherlands, only 7 percent.
I take it A.J. didn’t get that far into the article, as he makes no attempt to address Singer’s point.
My favorite example of teh stupid, however, is American Power, which turned Singer’s headline into “Obama Will Ration Health Care,” because, you know, all liberals think alike. So whatever some Australian philosopher says must be what Barack Obama intends to do. Brilliant.