Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How the health care debate is about human equality

From a new essay by Yuval Levin regarding health care policy and the 2012 presidential race:
Centralized management of the health-care sector inevitably invites an explicitly utilitarian approach to comparing the worth of different people's lives as a matter of public policy. Deciding what treatments to cover for which patients involves the government's determining whose lives are worth living and whose are not. Princeton's Peter Singer, an unabashed advocate of such public rationing, explained in the New York Times a few years ago that such an approach would, for one thing, require the government to value the lives of the disabled less than those of everyone else—a quadriplegic, for instance, should be valued at roughly half the worth of a healthy active person. "Some will object that this discriminates against people with disabilities," he wrote, but that's only because we begin from the premise that all human beings are equally valuable. That can't be true, Singer argued, since the very fact that we seek cures for illnesses and disabilities proves that we believe such conditions make life less worth living. He concluded: "Disability advocates, it seems, are forced to choose between insisting that extending their lives is just as important as extending the lives of people without disabilities, and seeking public support for research into a cure for their condition."

This kind of embarrassing sophistry is precisely where public control of the health-care system, and the resulting public rationing of treatment, must lead—to a rejection of human equality as a principle guiding government policy. Centralized bureaucratic administration of coverage decisions leaves no room for moral diversity (so, for instance, Obamacare compels everyone to fund abortion, despite some cheap tricks employed to make it seem as though money is not fungible). It leaves no room for individual decisions, and fewer ways for families to weigh their priorities and make unavoidable but difficult judgments humanely and compassionately.
Read the rest.