Archive for June, 2012

British Death Panels; is the USA next?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Top doctor’s chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year

  • Professor says doctors use ‘death pathway’ to euthenasia of the elderly
  • Treatment on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours
  • Around 29 per cent of patients that die in hospital are on controversial ‘care pathway’
  • Pensioner admitted to hospital given treatment by doctor on weekend shift

By Steve Doughty   19 June 2012 

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Alternative to Obamacare

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Proper policy the perfect prescription

Jack Markowitz Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 6-24-12

For businesses and consumers, this has been the Season in the Waiting Room. Not the doctor’s waiting room — the judges’.

The Supreme Court was due at any time to declare whether we do or do not have a constitutional health care “reform,” the 2,400-page paperweight called Obamacare.

Conservatives paced up and down all spring, hoping at least five justices would rescue freedom at death’s door. Maybe We the Patient can go home and empty the medicine cabinet of all that foul-tasting socialism concocted in Washington.

Liberals must have hoped just as fervently that the high cost of health care can be cured — and even take on millions more customers — if we throw the bill to everybody.

Yet, why should it be so hard to keep medical costs reasonably down, like any costs? Competition, remember?

First of all, though, we need a refresher course in paying for at least the small stuff. No more “first-dollar coverage” foolishly clung to in the illusion that the tab goes to a third party, “the insurance.”

Think again. Health insurance is properly for “unplanned large expenses,” says John H. Cochrane — bills that can ruin you — “not predictable regular expenses.”

Cochrane is a professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s business school. “Vibrant markets for health insurance” are perfectly possible for the reasonable. he says.

The trouble is, “government has regulated them out of existence,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Far from deregulated system, we have a super-regulated one. It stifles the virtues of the marketplace.

Glaring example: an employer gets a tax deduction — worth millions in a big company — on group health insurance. But no deduction for contributing to a worker’s individual policy. Right there, he says, is why people are scared to quit a job with benefits. Go elsewhere and you could face exclusion for a pre-existing health condition. So we trap people in jobs they’d rather leave. And numb the economy by just that much.

Socializers of medicine lament that low-income people take their acute ills to emergency rooms, shifting the bill to the rest of us.

But the uninsured aren’t the key cost problem, according to Cochrane.

Rather, it’s the people who do have insurance — and their doctors — who overuse health services. And never really ‘shop’ as they would for anything else.

“We’ll know we have a healthy market,” he says, “when hospitals print prices on their websites.”

There are more missed opportunities on the supply side. Congress, the American Medical Association and state licensing offices use regulations and standards to keep down the number of new doctors, foreign doctors and medical schools. Insurance companies are banned from operating across state lines. And medical malpractice reform never gets a chance to discourage doctors from ordering superfluous “defensive” testing of patients.

A proper health insurance policy, in Cochrane’s view, would be “guaranteed renewable” for the well or sick, and follow the insured from job to job, state to state.

It doesn’t sound like an impossible prescription, nor a scandalously expensive one. The Chicago prof believes a competitive market in individual catastrophic insurance would prove “much cheaper than what’s offered today.”

Now if only the Supreme Court lets us go that way. Congress and the White House didn’t.

Jack Markowitz writes Sundays and Thursdays. Email