Home My Weekly Column July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017

10-month-old Charlie Gard

July 2, 2017 - Charlie Gard and the Death Panel


Back during the run-up to Obamacare, Sarah Palin was lambasted in the media for having the temerity to suggest that government healthcare would lead to what she termed "death panels". Despite the media onslaught, she was correct as the case of Charlie Gard in Europe demonstrates.

Charlie is a 10-month-old baby who developed an extremely rare and eventually fatal condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.  Even worse for poor Charlie, he lives in the UK, a country with "single-payer" health care. And so Charlie will be taken off life support because no less than 10 judges in Europe have declared it. This despite Charlie's mom and dad having raised nearly $1.6 million to bring Charlie to the United States for additional treatment. Not only have unelected judges decided that Charlie must die, they have forbidden Charlie's parents from taking Charlie to America despite having the resources to do so.  Shameful.

Charlie's case demonstrates clearly why "universal", "single-payer", "government sponsored" healthcare or whatever you want to call it, is not a policy ultimately based on compassion. That may be how supporters frame the question but like all public policy, the discussion of healthcare provided by government is a discussion of resources. No matter where you live or how wealthy your nation is, the government's resources are not inexhaustible; they are finite. If the price to keep a severely impaired person like Charlie alive is $10,000 but 10 other people can be cured for that same $10,000, what is the proper use? In a straight cost/benefit analysis, one would have to chose the 10, wouldn't they?

That is the lie of "universal" health care.  Because resources are finite, $100 used for one person is $100 that cannot be used for someone else. So the question becomes who is the better investment of that $100.  Which, citizen, which human being, provides a better return on investment, will be better use to the state, for the government's expenditure? And who decides? Bureaucrats? Doctors? Judges? If the person or group decides that you are not worth the money and withhold life-saving care from you leading to your death, how exactly would that not constitute a "death panel"?

This is what it looks like when judges order your baby to die.

This is not the case in a private healthcare system where each person or family is responsible for their own care.  In a market-based healthcare system, one family using $100 of their own money for a physical for their teen getting ready to play a school sport does not take $100 away from another family. Granted, that $100 may procure a different quality of care but no one, or very few, will do without; they will simply decide what they can get for the money they have available. Like the market for hotel rooms, like the market for car sales, if there is an opening where money can be made, an enterprising doctor or group will fill that void.

Conversely, taking that $100 away from the family through taxation means that 1) they won't get to use it and 2) it will go into a pool that everyone has to use. Every dollar government takes from us is a dollar less that we are able to use for our own healthcare, food, housing, clothing, etc. In other words, it is a reduction in our individual liberty and independence.

The question of healthcare is a question or resources, not a question of compassion. The heartbreaking situation of little Charlie Gard reminds us of this.  Will we learn the lesson he is teaching? Or will we march headlong into a "panacea" where bureaucrats hold the power of life and death?