Medical Tuesday Blog
From our archives: Mortal Peril
Richard A Epstein, a distinguished professor of law at Chicago University, sets the theme with a scene from ABC’s “Nightline,” in a telecast originating at Chicago University as part of the university’s centennial celebration on February 6, 1992. The topic for this town meeting was universal health care. Ted Koppel presided at the center table with five carefully chosen experts on health care. Behind him were two rows of high-powered experts and politicians, ready to jump in to air their views. There was a total of five tiers of experts; some of whom were given a good chance to speak, and some which were strictly for show and barred from any speaking role. Epstein was in the fourth tier which was permitted to speak only if a staffer could persuade the central command unit they had something to contribute.
Nothing in the broadcast was left to chance, Epstein points out. Although there was a short dress rehearsal, once the show went live there was an unannounced video segment which featured the heartbreaking story of a young girl whose narrow escape from drowning left her in a permanent vegetative state. Her parents had already exhausted their million-dollar health coverage and did not now know where to turn.
Epstein tried to persuade the staffer to allow him access to the microphone which was five feet away without success. The right reply to the parents, he wanted to assert, was that nothing at all should be done to keep their child alive at further or even public expense. The tragedy occurred with the near-drowning. All hope of recovery had passed. A national health plan that supplied unlimited catastrophic coverage could not have averted this tragedy or have treated it any better. And to treat her any longer at taxpayers’ expense would only deny others minimal health care. Epstein uses this example to set the stage for Mortal Peril and to demonstrate how emotions get in the way of realistic and logical solutions to national health care.
This book review is at http://www.delmeyer.net/MedicalLiterature/bookshelf/bkrev_MortalPeril.htm
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