Monday, November 11, 2013

Brave New World Arriving

Jack London’s short story “The Law of Life” is about dying. A blind, old Indian man was near death, but the nomadic band he had lived with couldn’t wait for his end. They needed to hunt if they would survive, so, with his consent, they left him behind to die alone in the frigid Arctic north country. His son patted him on the head before leaving on his dogsled. He expected the cold would take him - a relatively peaceful death, if lonely. But, just as he ran out of firewood, a pack of wolves surrounded him.
We all have to die of something. Like most, I’d prefer to go in my sleep next to a beautiful woman after enjoying a good meal with good wine, and, you know. Truth be told, though, I don’t really want to know the how or when of it. It’s out of my control. And what happens after that? I believe the Catholic version of everlasting life, but that’s not the subject of this column. Death is.

I read a lot of Jack London as a boy. He was an atheist, a socialist, a eugenicist, and an alcoholic, but I didn’t know any of that while I was reading him. I have little doubt that if he were alive today, he’d be an Obama supporter. He’d support Obamacare and its death panels I suspect, but maybe not. In the story, London described the old Indian’s death as a mutual decision of both the clan and the individual. They were kin and would have nurtured him in his final hours or days out of respect, but they all understood that to delay the hunt would weaken the whole band. They cared for him, but their survival was more important. He cared enough for them to accept that. Government death panels, however, would be comprised of strangers, not family, and would not necessarily include input from the dying individual. The decision would be based on a cold, bureaucratic, cost/benefit analysis.
Then again, maybe the eugenicist in London would approve. It’s worth mentioning here that Nazis admired American eugenicists like Jack London and Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and patron saint of gender feminists. The Nazi Holocaust began with the extermination of the weak and feeble-minded as a drain on German national resources, and then “progressed” to mass murder of “inferior” races.

While a young college student, I worked as an orderly on the 3-11 shift in a state, chronic-care hospital in Massachusetts where people didn’t get better and go home. They died there, and it was my job to put their toe tags on, wrap them up in a shroud, and bring them down to the morgue. Before they died, I fed them dinner, played cribbage with them, cleaned them up if they needed it, and talked to them about dying if they wanted to. Some died with dignity. Others didn’t. How they went wasn’t about external circumstances though. It was about how they were inside. After two-and-a-half years I got my undergrad degree and left that job. It taught me much about the end of life. I was a young man - twenty-four - but unlike others my age who thought themselves indestructible, I came away with a deep understanding that nobody lives forever. That awareness has enriched my life ever since.
Last year this time, my wife’s father lay dying. He was ninety and unless a feeding tube were surgically inserted, he wouldn’t last. The family gathered and conferred with his doctor in a nearby room. The decision was unanimous - make him as comfortable as possible and wait for the end. The doctor complimented everyone and said unanimity in family meetings like that was rare in his experience. The family meeting could have been called a death panel, I suppose, but it was one comprised of people who loved him, not disinterested government bureaucrats. Unless Obamacare is repealed, I don’t think it’s going to be like that for too many of you reading right now. Unless you go suddenly with a heart attack or something, which only 10-20% of us do, your end will be determined by a government death panel decision, not a family one.
Consider that when your health insurance company sends you a cancellation notice. Think about it when you shop on the exchanges and learn that you’re going to be paying much higher premiums for much less coverage under the “Affordable” Care Act. Your increased premiums will pay for abortions and death panels, or, as Obamacare euphemistically calls them: “Independent Payment Advisory Boards” or IPABs. Their job will be to decide if you’re worth spending money on.
Jack London’s old Indian faced a pack of wolves as his end. Tomorrow’s Americans will deal with government bureaucrats on their local IPAB. What will it be like dealing with them? Think how it is at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Take a number and wait. Welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare.


Rose said...

Great article Tom. Much food for thought. As someone with an elderly parent - these death panels are very scary.

Anonymous said...

Tom wrote: "I came away with a deep understanding that nobody lives forever. That awareness has enriched my life ever since."

Based on my experience, combat does the same thing.

Roger Ek

Unknown said...

Obama's death panels are similar to wolves. At least in my book! At the tender age of 81 I can only look forward to having to deal with them at some future point I guess. Sure wish I could do it from the business of a gun so they could feel the pain of potential death.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what your opinion of it is but I always recommend Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" which presents an interesting future world.

Anonymous said...

medicare drained as $$ is transferred to expanded $$ going into general fund..medicaid rolls incrementally increased..oh yea.RECIPE FOR DISASTER! Like they say..Obamacare is a huge success. Bankrupting America is a PLANNED strategy. It was not supposed to "WORK" Laurie from Bartlett

Bob said...


I don't know if Tom is pathetically and laughingly ignorant, or is just an unscrupulous liar.

FactCheck, man.

But as Forbes says about this very goofy attempt to revive Palin's "Lie of the Year" (PolitiFact, 2009):

"Fact-checking backfires among people who have enough basic knowledge of politics to resist evidence that contradicts their beliefs! It is difficult for people to see the world clearly, when their vision is biased by their pre-existing attitudes."

Tom's mind is made up, and facts won't change it.

More from Forbes:

"In our study, we tested how fact-checking of the death panel myth influences people’s belief in the existence of such panels. We discovered that debunking such myths is effective at convincing some people to give up their belief in death panels. People who had warm feelings toward Sarah Palin, and thus believed her death panel claim, were willing to abandon that belief when faced with non-partisan fact-checking evidence that these death panels did not exist at the time of Palin’s claim. But the fact-checking only reduced belief in death panels among Palin supporters who otherwise had very little knowledge of politics—people who couldn’t say, for example, how many U.S. Senators there are in each state. By contrast, as shown in the picture, Palin supporters who also held basic knowledge of U.S. politics were resistant to fact-checking –debunking of the death panel myth not only failed to dissuade them from believing in death panels, but actually caused them to believe more strongly that such panels exist"

But why am I wasting my time with these fools who believe stronger the more it is disproved?

I guess because I find it amusing. If I though the fools would make a difference I would not be amused, but the lies didn't work years ago, and they just seem even more moronic today!

Keep it up!!

Tom McLaughlin said...

Guess you didn't read the link, Bob.

You can call it an Independent Payment Advisory Board if it makes you Democrats feel better, but the American people are waking up.

If it walks like a death panel, talks like a death panel, makes rulings like a death panel, guess what? It's a death panel.

Evidently you're not as smart as Sarah Palin, and neither are your alleged "fact checkers."

Obamacare is one big death panel and the American people are just now waking up to realize their Dear Leader has been lying ever since he announced his candidacy.

I know you're all in panic mode now just like he is, but do I have any sympathy for you?

No. I don't.

The only ones I have sympathy for are those with cancer who cannot continue to get treatment now that their policies have been cancelled. They're the ones facing bankruptcy or death or both - thanks to Obamacare and geniuses like you.

Anonymous said...

Who do you think you are kidding with this BS, Tom? You are simply preaching to the ignorant gospel who only believes what they want to believe. You are changing no minds. You are making conservatives look like a laughing stock - you are HURTING your own cause. Rehashing old lies that already failed miserably? Really?

It is no wonder the Tea Party support has plummeted, and that the Republican Party is a pathetic mess. What a shame, because it was once a great party. My grandfather laments what has happened to it. He has a hard time thinking of himself as a Democrat now, but he has been forced to vote that way.

Thanks to people like you.

Anonymous said...

"alleged" fact checkers? You are off your rocker. That is like saying "alleged" author Cormac McCarthy. He and PolitiFact are both Pulitzer prize winners afterall.

The Radical Rights denial of facts and reality is mindblowing. And it always blows up in your face. Remember ignoring the facts about what the polls said last election? Lies do not become reality with repetition and denial. I have no doubt that you would have been one of the last humans on earth denying that the earth was round had you been born sooner.

Anonymous said...

Tom M
"...The only ones I have sympathy for are those with cancer who cannot continue to get treatment now that their policies have been cancelled."

Certainly strikeable, however..

Shameless plug for Jen's Friends.
No gub'mint money, and (not so)strangely no not-for-profit status forthcoming from IRS.
(Where else have I seen that?)

I've told it's because they've been deemed to "discriminate". I consistently choose to
donate my "extra" personal assets to at least lighten-the-load for my neighbors anyway, no matter their personal "political" beliefs. (apparently incurable)
A bit different than the Fascism and confiscation required for "officially mandated" Socialism.


Laplaya said...

Anonymous---- you seem to suggest that the Democratic Party is somehow different than its counterpart. isn't. I find the endorsement of drone murders, especially of innocent women an children, a war crime, not to mention immoral and evil. Period. And when it's ramped up significantly by a " peace prize winner" I want to vomit. What's more, he's now apparently bragged about how good he is at killing...uhm......
In addition, you also suggest, by endorsing obama, that fast and furious was ok. No big deal, wasn't really obamas "thing" anyway, heh? Gitmo? Oh I know. That would be closed but for the republican opposition. Uh huh..and wiretapping? The Ndaa which he was sued over, by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Noam Chomsky. I could go on and on....

Democrats? Republicans? In name only. Seems pretty clear to me that this is a corporate totalitarian state. Period. Suggesting anything else seems contradictory to reality.

elgringo said...

Obamas only lasting legacy will be complete capitulation to wall st., the military industrial complex, and the surveillance state.....

Some hope and change, huh?

Anonymous said...

I didn't endorse Obama at all. I am not a Democrat. Don't go off on someone before you know the facts.

Anonymous said...

The great majority out there, whilst being well-primed for it, still have no idea what it feels like to be at the mercy of any random government functionary.

Anonymous said...

Is it still a "death panel" if its your insurance company denying you life prolonging care, or is this a "free market solution?"

Tom McLaughlin said...

It could be, yes.

An important distinction, however, would be that in the case of a government in a single-payer system, there was no choice for the citizen whose life-prolonging care were cut off.

And please note that single-payer-government health care has always been the ultimate, not-so-hidden goal of Obamacare from the get-go.

In a free market like we had before Obamacare, there was choice involved when purchasing the policy/insurance company, so there's a "caveat emptor" factor involved.

Winston Smith said...

Obama is a joke. Just like W. big surprise---- a Goldman Sachs backed stooge is merely another corporate puppet..who woulda thunk it? golly gee....

Now lets talk about something real, not some manufactured bs, lets talk about how your blind and very suspect support of israel is going to be the absolute ruin of this nation. The latest "deal" with Iran is very telling.
Netanyahu is a spoiled child who should be in jail for war crimes and will most certianly rot in hell for operating the largest open air prison on the planet. Iran, like Palestine, is full of human beings, women and children, who are being starved and murdered by gods "chosen"...and they aren't even Semitic!! They are Ashkenaz!! the Semites live in Palestine!!

Do you ever question your blind allegiance to this "nation"? How on earth do you support dual citizens in congress? Why do you refuse to acknowledge israeili atrocities and focus on the other side?

This "special" relationship must end. Now. We have a country to get back on track. Fighting proxy wars for israel while giving them billions is not only counter intuitive it's simply evil. As a Christian, thou shall not kill, you'd think you'd see that?

Max blumenthals "Goliath" nails the Israeli situation.
A portion of Chris hedges review of this fantastic book.

"Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy..."

Thomas said...

Interesting rebuttal to Mr. McGlaughlin's outright lies today in the Conway Sun. Dr. Jerry Knirk makes a knowledgeable case where Mr. McGlaughlin once again shows how poor a reactionary ideologue and former school teacher can be at attaining empirical evidence. No wonder kids don't get a proper education when their teachers glorify ignorance.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Here's the first part of Knirk's long letter - too long for one post, so I'll put it in two separate posts:

To the editor:

I am writing in response to Tom McLaughlin's column of Nov. 14, regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and "Death Panels." Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. Unfortunately , Mr McLaughlin's "facts" are incorrect.

In his column he resurrected the inaccurate allegation that the ACA included "death panels." This is not true. The death panels were a figment of Sarah Palin's imagination. Numerous fact checking groups have determined that her allegations were false.What was included in the ACA is reimbursement by Medicare to providers for voluntary counseling to Medicare patients about living wills, advance directives, and end-of-life care. I say "was" because that section of the bill was removed due to the controversy. This is unfortunate as many people do not complete advance directives or designate health care proxies and are not aware of the excellent choice of hospice which provides compassionate care by visiting nurses.

Death is not optional — none of us get out of here alive. The intention of this section of the ACA was to encourage people to make their own decisions (with the assistance of their primary care provider) about what they desire in terms of end-of-life care at a time in their life when they are able to express their own preferences and record them. Advance directives are not really a checklist as one can not anticipate every possible scenario. They are expressions of preferences which the person wishes to be honored by others if they can not make their own decisions later. In practice, the decision regarding specific interventions will still be made by the patient as long as he or she is competent to do so. If not competent, then the decision would be made by the health care proxy (usually the closest family member) designated by the person in their advance directive. Both of my parents died in the past few years and had made clear their desires regarding end-of-life care, both in family discussions and in advance directives. It was still difficult to tell the nursing home not to send my mother to the hospital when she was near death, but I could be comforted by the knowledge that I was carrying out her wishes. She did not want heroic measures just to "live" a few more days.

(continued further down)

Tom McLaughlin said...

Mr. McLaughlin tells the story of his family gathering and unanimously reaching a decision on behalf of his wife's father who lay dying. He notes that the doctor said that unanimity was rare in his experience. Lack of unanimity is often the case (witness Terri Schiavo). It is difficult when the family does not agree. In such a case, it is very helpful if one has an advance directive, completed by the patient, to determine what he/she would have desired. Mr McLaughlin goes on to say that this "family meeting could have been called a death panel ... but it was one comprised of people who loved him, not disinterested government bureaucrats" and then goes on to assert that unless "Obamacare" is repealed, that "your end will be determined by a government death panel decision, not a family one." This is not true. The section in the original ACA bill would actually have fostered the involvement of the patient and family in the decision making with no involvement of bureaucrats. More importantly, the alleged "death panel" section is not even in the final ACA act.

Mr. McLaughlin then goes on to conflate death panels and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), stating that your "local IPAB" is the mechanism by which faceless bureaucrats will pull the plug on Granny. Not true. There are no "local IPABs". The IPAB is one national board tasked with achieving savings in Medicare without affecting coverage or quality; it is prohibited from making proposals which ration care. The IPAB does not make any decisions regarding specific patients. It is not a death panel. Currently, Congress pressures Medicare administrators to cover procedures and methods of care at the behest of the medical industry. The goal of IPAB is to take these medical coverage decisions out of the hands of lobbyists and Congress and place them where they should be — in the hands of scientific experts with no financial conflicts of interest who will use the best evidence available to make decisions.

The rate of wasteful spending in U.S. medicine is estimated to be 30 percent, much of this in unnecessary testing and procedures. This rate probably approaches 50 percent in my field of spinal disorders. By "unnecessary" we mean tests or procedures which either have no real evidence of effectiveness or are more expensive than equally effective cheaper tests or procedures.

A healthy debate on the merits of legislation is essential in a democracy. However, a healthy debate can not occur if the facts of the legislation are distorted for shock value in order to further political purposes.

Jerry Knirk, MD

Tom McLaughlin said...

Knirk writes:

"The IPAB is one national board tasked with achieving savings in Medicare without affecting coverage or quality; it is prohibited from making proposals which ration care. The IPAB does not make any decisions regarding specific patients. It is not a death panel. Currently, Congress pressures Medicare administrators to cover procedures and methods of care at the behest of the medical industry. The goal of IPAB is to take these medical coverage decisions out of the hands of lobbyists and Congress and place them where they should be — in the hands of scientific experts with no financial conflicts of interest who will use the best evidence available to make decisions."

Clearly, Knirk's opinion is that "scientists" on the IPAB will make decisions about what's best for all of us, but the president appoints members and they don't have to be scientists. As Obamacare is written now, members have to be approved by the Senate. That would be Democrats only since Reid changed the rules there last week.

IPAB will have 15 members, but it only takes one can make decisions which are not subject to judicial review. IPAB's purpose is to reduce Medicare costs by reducing fees paid to healthcare providers for services to below-market rates.

That's already happening. Many doctors are refusing Medicare patients, and IPAB's job is to push reimbursements down still further to make up for the $500 billion Obamacare takes from Medicare.

That not only rations services, it takes the decision-making process out of the hands of insurance companies who won't be able to pay more than IPAB says, and from families whose options are reduced.
(continued further down)

Tom McLaughlin said...

The Democrats who gave us Obamacare were themselves a death panel for Edie Sundby. She's a stage 4 cancer patient whose health insurance policy was cancelled because of the "Affordable" Care Act - because her policy didn't fit Obama's view of what should or shouldn't be in a health insurance policy.

The cancelled policy paid for Sundby to get care in two different states for her disease, but that's not approved under Obamacare. Sundby is just one example. Five million other policies were cancelled and about 80 million more will be next year. Maybe mine. Maybe yours too, Dr. Knirk. Then we'll all be thrown into the exchanges, like Sundby was.

If the IPAB doesn't submit a proposal by the required deadline, the Secretary of HHS - now Kathleen Sebelius - will make the decision, which will have the force of law without judicial review.

Sebelius operated as a one-person death panel earlier this year in the case of Sarah Murnaghan - a 10-year-old who needed a lung transplant, but was too young for HHS rules, so her life was to be decided by Sebelius.

Sebelius ruled that Murnaghan could be moved up and the girl got her transplant, but we got a glimpse of the Brave New World soon to come under Obamacare, did we not?

Anonymous said...

I thought for SURE you'd have a little something on the day of Thanksgiving, the reunions of family (and geographically "orphaned" friends), and the official "scripts" for appropriate table discussion being offered, intentionally crafted to further supplant faith and family as "givens".