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Don’t Get Old In Belgium

Tintin’s aging companion Captain Haddock had better watch his back. The Belgian daily Le Soir reports [1] (in French; this is the translation from DeepL [2], which is usually better than Google):

This is stunning news: according to several studies conducted at the Federal Centre for Healthcare Expertise (KCE), the King Baudouin Foundation and the Heart of Inami (in a secret report), 40% of Belgians (and more Flemings than Walloons) are seriously considering maintaining the balance of social security “by no longer administering costly treatments that prolong the lives of those over 85”.

We can guess the next step: we would quickly have a two-tier medicine, between patients who have to settle for social security and those who can afford to pay for unreimbursed drugs or operations to which they would no longer have access. In the Netherlands, there is already no longer any pacemaker placed at over 75 years of age — the device far exceeds the patient in terms of functional expectancy.

By comparison, only 17% say they no longer want to reimburse the costs of illness or accident resulting from personal behaviour (smoking, obesity), a solution against which 46% of Belgians are opposed. Much more than the 35% who oppose stopping life-saving care for the elderly.

Moreover, the group’s solidarity is highly dependent on the patient’s perspectives. Thus, while 69% of Belgians consider it legitimate to spend 50,000 euros on a life-saving treatment, only 28% of them maintain this opinion if the patient is over 85 years old. In the case of a cardiac device, the two groups balance each other (50%-40%). And if the person is in a coma and the treatment only brings one year of life, three Belgians out of ten agree, except among those over 85 years of age, half of Belgians believe that “this must never be possible, whatever the age”. Dutch-speakers are much more likely to exclude people over 85 from more expensive care. “These percentages in favour of exclusion are shocking,” notes Professor Elchardus, who conducted the survey for the Inami.

Let the old die. They are a burden on the system. Such is the view of an astonishing number of Belgians today. Do you really think it’s going to take much to convince them that it’s better to euthanize the elderly involuntarily than to simply let them die? They already euthanize children in Belgium [3], and a dementia patient who had not requested euthanasia was put to death by doctors at the request of her family.

Don’t get old in Belgium. That’s my advice to you.

 

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96 Comments To "Don’t Get Old In Belgium"

#1 Comment By PrairieDog On March 22, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

Captain Haddock may have been created by a Belgian cartoonist, but he’s supposed to be English. A descendant of Sir Francis Haddock, no less.

#2 Comment By charles cosimano On March 22, 2019 @ 4:15 pm

It all depends on how you look at things and your age has a lot to do with it. When I was in my 30’s I proposed an “Encumbering Tax” on the the elderly. Now that I am getting elderly that does not seem like such a good idea but it was fun at the time watching people shriek with outrage.

#3 Comment By Dale R McNamee On March 22, 2019 @ 4:20 pm

Physician assisted suicide was passed by the Legislature of my state, Maryland and will be signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan…

Of course, it’s intended for people suffering from terminal diseases with 6 months or less to live… But, we all know how it will be applied and practiced with Belgium ( a supposedly Catholic country and in the Netherlands, which was a center of the Reformation ) as the guides…

And we have the guidance of Ezekiel Emmanuel as well…

The funny thing is… If I attempt suicide and fail, I will be charged and “forced into psychiatric care” or be put in jail… Yet, a doctor can get the “death kit” and give me the “hot needle” under the ever loose interpretations of the definition of what constitutes “suffering”…

As a Bible-believing Christian who put his faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and through that faith am assured that I will be in Heaven a picosecond after I did… My death is welcome…

Faced with a continuing existence in a rotting, evil, world and the dead souled “people” who occupy it… I don’t want to experience that !

#4 Comment By Clyde Schechter On March 22, 2019 @ 4:35 pm

“No doubt you’ll be absolutely inundated with versions of my reply, but: Isn’t this exactly what the “budget hawks,” mostly Republicans, are gunning for when they call Medicare “unsustainable?”

Well, it’s related. But as I understand it, the Republicans want to eliminate health care for everybody except billionaires, not based on age. They don’t put it in those words, but that would be the outcome if they got their policies implemented.

#5 Comment By Kouros On March 22, 2019 @ 5:01 pm

Let’s think for a second at the traditional family, with three or four generations under the same roof – I am generalizing here to include the whole world and not only the North American, US model of nuclear family.

Resources (including information / knowledge / time / health status / life expectancy) are limited and this is a fact of nature, recognized in all culture and further down, one can find examples in other mammals.

The list of priorities are relatively clear and consistent across cultures. The old and sick (especially if dying) are not on the top of priorities. A fact recognized even by these old, sick, dying people when the reference is the family. The marginal health output for unit of investment is small, and the allocation of resources this way, especially in time of acute shortages. Nobody of course wants to die, but also, nobody wants to jeopardize the survival of the family. Men will put their lives on the line for their families. The old will want to go first, for the sake of their families (in times of famine, the old Inu would leave the family igloo to die – not nice and kind of lonely and I am sure nobody was happy about it).

Nowadays, withe the modern safety networks, especially those funded from taxpayers money, the “family”‘s boundaries as resource pool is greatly extended, but definitely not unlimited. A lot of old people have “Do Not Resuscitate” orders provided.

The old and very old and towards end of life consume the bulk of medical resources in the society. It is a fact. Everybody knows it. If it weren’t for the universal coverage and be left to families and individuals (that is how capitalism works) life expectancy would be lower (medicine in the past has evolved only by serving the rich and their needs).

I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my kids economic future and diminish their chances if the cost-benefit analysis would indicate that it would be a good time to go (including here my natural desire to live, just for the sake of seeing another sunset, or the end of The Game of Thrones).

So I am pretty sure, we are not going to see anytime soon the old Belgian geezers being marched to the graveyards to dig their own graves, as a last service for the society and ultimate boost to the country’s GDP.

#6 Comment By Marcus Hernandez On March 22, 2019 @ 5:09 pm

Finally, a semblance of sanity in this thread. Plus 1 to Glories of Government Control.

#7 Comment By Acilius On March 22, 2019 @ 5:41 pm

@Chris G: LOGAN’S RUN is one thing. Anthony Trollope’s THE FIXED PERIOD, published in 1882, is something altogether different. The fictional island of Britannula is home to a newly independent republic which decrees that all citizens should be publicly hanged upon reaching their 65th birthdays. The spectators gather to do honor to the person being hanged and to show their gratitude to that person. It is a practice that is supposed, not only to relieve the society of people who might become burdens to it, but also to build public-spiritedness.

Because the novel is by Trollope, it is written in an engaging, witty style, and everything in it seems very matter of fact and perfectly reasonable. The British Empire intervenes and overthrows the government of President Neverbend before anyone can be hanged, and this allows a conventional happy ending. But Trollope never did say, when asked about the novel in later years, that he thought the Fixed Period was a bad idea.

#8 Comment By cka2nd On March 22, 2019 @ 5:48 pm

Given the breakdown in social solidarity championed by the New Right, by Reagan and Thatcher, and by neo-liberalism, all with the willing participation of New Labour and various sell-out Socialists and Social Democrats, not to mention America’s New Democrats and Democratic Leadership Council, this does not surprise at all. If you’re not a billionaire or a millionaire, you can just rot.

[NFR: I know this is going to be hard for you to accept ideologically, but the breakdown of social solidarity did not start with Reagan and Thatcher. People were already writing about individualism and the loss of community as far back as the immediate postwar period. It has to do in large part with the nature of modernity. — RD]

#9 Comment By cka2nd On March 22, 2019 @ 5:51 pm

Nat Hentoff wouldn’t have been surprised by this, either. I may have been on the other side of the abortion barricades from Hentoff, but his warnings about the class dangers of physician assisted suicide struck a chord with me that have resonated for going on 30 years.

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 22, 2019 @ 6:17 pm

Rod, didn’t you comment approvingly not too many months ago about a woman in her seventies who wrote that she is old enough to die, and will not for the most part seek or accept medical treatment if something happens to her?

Its true that a voluntary choice is different from a policy. But there do need to be policies. Especially when health care is complex, and expensive, and therefore involves complex insurance policies. I also recall a physician who used to comment here who outlined a future scenario where she might be sitting in nursing home drooling on herself all day, with leaky plumbing, and if her heart stopped, there would be a protocol to rush her to a hospital by ambulance, put her on a heart/lung machine, etc.

My father fortunately died in bed after only a few months in a nursing wing of a senior complex, simply stopped breathing, no catastrophic symptoms. But he had been in the hospital a few days earlier, and a staff person had talked to me speculatively on the phone as to whether he might need a central line. I didn’t know what that was, but my sister did — and we both knew it wasn’t anything dad would want. (Painful, invasive, etc.)

Policies like this should be handled very, very carefully, not rushed into with ideological glee. But at a certain point it would be reasonable to say, no invasive surgery, no central lines, no artificial ventilation.

Our ancestors were never faced with the choice of spending tens of thousands of dollars to let grandma live an extra year.

True. Most of what medicine had to offer was in a doctor’s little black bag. Either he could pull her through, or she died.

#11 Comment By Lee On March 22, 2019 @ 6:48 pm

Don’t grow old in Belgium, Don’t get sick in the USA.

You don’t think our insurance companies make these kinds of calls? They deny care all the time including to young people when the expenses are really high. Sometimes they do it knowing they will be forced to pay eventually but think it is a good bet the patient will die before then.

Very few people in their 80s can survive and then recover from major surgeries. My BIL is in his 80s and was told his medical conditions preclude any major surgeries. I’ve known more people about whom that has been true than false. I can tell you from plenty of experience that you heal more slowly the older you get and it is quite noticeable. Personally, I’ve already told my sons that I don’t want “extraordinary” measures if I have a heart attack or whatever. Of course I’ve lived with a lot of pain, surgeries and all that the last 20 years and don’t relish the thought of more. I’d just as soon die at a youngish age relatively speaking than be in a home being wheeled around, unable to do much and in a lot of pain.

I’ve mentioned this once before but back when my mother died, doctors had to try to revive you with no exceptions. She had fought cancer for 5 years, over 20 surgeries, so tiny she looked like a starving child and in a great deal of pain. I’ve always been furious that they revived her twice to make her suffer even more. What was the point of that? Was that “moral” and if so why?

My grandmother lived well into her 90s and struggled so much the last few years, too blind to read her Bible or anything else, in a wheelchair and in pain. She was never a person to complain but she did tell me how lonely she felt because everyone from her childhood had gone home and she was still here.

It is God’s will that we all die and go home to Him. What’s so bad about that? I’m rather looking forward to it.

Better to be denied extraordinary care because you are over 85 than to be denied basic care because you are poor.

#12 Comment By Lee On March 22, 2019 @ 6:58 pm

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is currently putting a case to our legislators that because we are on the far end of the heavy side, weight wise, in the US that we can handle higher levels of cancer causing chemicals. Note: we have coal here and we also have a lot of chemical plants. We’ve never been a leader in clean water.

How do ya like them apples? How do we fatten up the babies and the kiddies to make them less cancer-friendly?

It’s a cruel world…

#13 Comment By KS On March 22, 2019 @ 7:20 pm

What is it you want to do after age 85? You are done, you will barely be alive. Death will be a relief. Especially if you are being kept alive by machines, and only heavy narcotics keep the pain away.

Belgium is just being practical

#14 Comment By MikeCA On March 22, 2019 @ 7:37 pm

Let the poor and uninsured die,they’re a burden on the system. That’s what happens in the US to people that otherwise might live. They receive little to no primary care which means that routine health issues are not treated nor are live threatening conditions detected until they either greatly diminish the individual’s quality of life or ends their life early.
Our health care “system” rations treatment like other wealthy western nations; whereas they ration on the basis of the likelihood of achieving a positive outcome for the patient taking into account their age,probability of recovery,etc the US bases treatment on the ability to pay. No insurance,no money, no treatment. Yes,charitable medical care exists but it can’t help everyone who needs it. Emergency rooms are required to provide emergent care but nothing else. And you’re likely to receive a hefty bill which either cause bankruptcy or maybe just garnishment of your wages instead. Need medicine to treat a chronic condition that could possibly kill you or shorten your lifespan and can’t pay for it? Too bad in most cases.
Somehow keeping elderly people alive regardless of whether they wish to be kept alive or whether costly treatments will improve their remaining days is sacrosanct but allowing people who might otherwise live long productive lives to die because they can’t afford medical care is ok?

#15 Comment By Cole On March 22, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

My all-too-brief time working in a hospital gave me a fresh appreciation for how weird and unpleasant extending human life can get, especially when you’re talking about an elderly person. I’ve seen cases where they take truly extreme means to extend life–once you’ve used up four crash carts in one morning, you’ve crossed the line between saving a human life and abusing an increasingly battered corpse to maintain false hopes in family members who refuse to let go. That’s black magic, not white.

As others have noted, if you have a finite amount of cash to spend on healthcare–and everyone does–it becomes hard to justify dumping huge sums of money towards diminishing returns.

Now, straight euthanasia is obviously a different matter. And there are really queasy grey areas, like (I’m told) where hospice staff will deliberately put a really ailing patient on high doses of opiates to end it, because it’s extremely unpleasant to look at perpetual agony.

And that happens. Sometimes modern medicine isn’t enough to save them, but it is just enough to suspend them in a life not much better than a torture chamber. In one case, I prayed regularly for God to let a woman die and find peace, because she lingered for something like a month in a state where they had to perpetually keep her on obscene doses of both opiates and benzodiazepenes just so she could bear the daily treatments they were subjecting her to merely to maintain a status quo they knew they could never improve upon. It didn’t make those treatments pleasant, mind you; it just made them not quite so painful that she was literally screaming through them. Her life basically alternated between long periods of unconsciousness and short intervals of pain.

Now, this case was far from typical, but it shows how far you can go when you become determined to prolong life at all costs. At some point, you say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” And eighty-five is pretty old. Once you get that old, prognoses get grim. Not saying the Belgians are necessarily right about everything, but this isn’t necessarily a sign of the much-vaunted culture of death.

#16 Comment By Ken T On March 22, 2019 @ 8:33 pm

The GOP, on the other hand, would cut off healthcare for any Americans of any age who are not wealthy. So what are you all complaining about?

#17 Comment By John On March 22, 2019 @ 9:08 pm

The sad fact that no one wants to admit is that we peons are subjected to the decisions made by death panels, while those panels may be are comprised of government officials or insurance companies or some combination of the two that death panel will decide what treatments it will pay and what treatments we are forced to pay for on our own. Those of us who are not millionaires can count on someone deciding whether our treatment is worth funding and if we can’t pay for it we will die.

#18 Comment By Deggjr On March 22, 2019 @ 9:11 pm

I understand that Japan has a two tier health system with the break point at age 75.

I also understand that Medicare does not pay for full physicals. A wellness plan is written and those health conditions (only) are monitored. Patients can make identify new health conditions but they are their first line of defense.

Don’t get old in America either. [4]

#19 Comment By Anon1970 On March 22, 2019 @ 9:14 pm

Youngamconreader: You are right about the tough medical care decisions that society needs to make. Even in Canada, which has had a single payer health insurance system since 1966 and where the costs of providing medical procedures are lower than in the US, tough choices have to be made. Provincial health care budgets are not unlimited.

In Ontario, rationing is done by the limited availability of doctors and hospitals. Patients may have to wait and sometimes don’t make it. Read about one Ontario patient’s unfortunate death here: [5]

In the US, rationing is accomplished by the patient’s wealth or lack thereof.

#20 Comment By RATMDC On March 22, 2019 @ 9:35 pm

Gieussepe Scalas:

Do you have a cite for Belgium becoming a Muslim country?

#21 Comment By Captain Haddock On March 22, 2019 @ 10:04 pm

Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles! Ten thousand thundering typhoons!” Aztecs! Iconoclasts! Blundering Bazookas! Pinheads! Visigoths! Sycophants!

#22 Comment By Old Mother Codfisf On March 23, 2019 @ 8:24 am

My grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in September 1985. Got all kind of agressive treatments and died in September 1986. His last year was terrible.

A guy I know that was 85 – 85! – underwent chemo and radiation to fight Stage 4 stomach cancer. Added 8 miserable months to his life.

Who are the doctors reccommending this crap? They are peddling unrealistic optimism and false hopes.

#23 Comment By Fred On March 23, 2019 @ 8:29 am

I faced the reality of not being able to afford healthcare in my 20’s here in the US. I nearly died. The sensationalized headline of this blog post doesn’t convince me that the US health care system is better than Belgium’s

#24 Comment By James Kabala On March 23, 2019 @ 9:14 am

PrairieDog: A lot of those old European comics were not just translated into English but had the names and backgrounds of the characters changed as well. I guess they thought (not without reason) that the English and Americans did not care to read about foreign characters. I believe that was the case here.

#25 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 23, 2019 @ 11:38 am

the breakdown of social solidarity did not start with Reagan and Thatcher.

True. They were catalysts, tools, and to some extent symptoms, of a catastrophic acceleration. Thatcher was continuing the work of Ramsay McDonald, circa 1930, but she had golden opportunities to do considerable new damage to social solidarity. Didn’t she deny that there is any such thing as society? Reagan picked up where Herbert Hoover left off… although I don’t think Reagan was really responsible for his administration’s policies? I think its likely he already had early stage Alzheimer’s, and let his cabinet make decisions while he took afternoon naps and made speeches.

#26 Comment By James Keye On March 23, 2019 @ 11:43 am

This is perplexing issue. I watched my father spend well over a million dollars (plus various medicare and medicaid contributions) over 15 years “surviving” Parkinson’s; finally skeletal figure with no mind and a strong heart. Fight off death is a fools game.

I have volunarily rejected medical care (sic) except for the simplest and personally administered since the age of 70, now 75. I have written what I have to write; I have contributed my genes to the species; I have love the world and left as little bad in it as I could. Dying badly would defeat those accomplishments.

[NFR: Yes. I don’t want extraordinary efforts made for me at the end of my life. Because of what God has given me with my faith, I am not afraid to die. — RD]

#27 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 23, 2019 @ 12:22 pm

JonF

20 years. In 20 years Brussels will be majority Muslim. The Government has stopped collecting data about religious affiliation/ethnic origin, so the data come from non-government polls.
The ISLAM party aims to impose Shariah in Belgium by 2030.

See, e.g.:

[6]

[7]

#28 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 23, 2019 @ 12:24 pm

RATDMC

See my answer to JonF

#29 Comment By JonF On March 23, 2019 @ 2:32 pm

Re: In 20 years Brussels will be majority Muslim

I am skeptical about that (a human lifetime is a good deal longer than 20 years: will all the non-Muslims die an early death for some mysterious reason in 20 years? Or maybe they’ll all move somewhere?) But moreover Belgium is a not a ministate like San Marino: There’s more to it than Brussels. As a comparison, right now a number of America’s cities, including my own, are majority African American. But that doesn’t mean that whole country is? Absent catastrophe demographic are very slow in humans due to our long lives and long generational times. “A few years” is pretty impossible as a complete demographic turnover unless you want to invoke scifi scenarios.

Re: The ISLAM party aims to impose Shariah in Belgium by 2030.

Man proposes. God (and Mother Nature and Reality disposes.
And while I regard you as a generally honorable and honest man, I have to wonder if you consuming lurid propaganda and treating it credibly. Can you document the claim above, and give some info as to this Islam Party”? E.g., is it some splinter group, perhaps a dangerous one to be sure, like the old Red Guards of Italy who also promised Revolution, etc.– and failed to deliver despite their vicious crimes.

#30 Comment By JonF On March 23, 2019 @ 2:36 pm

Re: I don’t want extraordinary efforts made for me at the end of my life. Because of what God has given me with my faith, I am not afraid to die.

My father was not a man of faith, but he had a horror of ever being kept alive artificially when no real hope remained. He made everyone promise– me, my step-mom and siblings, his sisters, his friends and his doctor and hospital personnel, that under no circumstances would that be allowed. In those days Michigan had no living will law yet, but the hospital did supply him with an orange wristband meaning “DNR” when he was admitted. And at the end his wishes were entirely respected. he was not without pain in the final hours, alas, but insofar as anyone can be ready for his final hour, he was ready. I hope to be so lucky.

#31 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On March 23, 2019 @ 6:40 pm

Well Jon

First of all thank you. I take your appreciation very seriously.

But Le Figaro is a serious news outlet and the article reported by the Gatestone institute is originally from “Il Foglio”, which is not known to play with its sources. Giulio Meotti is a reliable lad.
The ISLAM Party (the name is an acronym) is a source of worry for Belgian authorities who are now paying the price of unfettered immigration and heaps of cash from Saudi Arabia.

#32 Comment By Mark B. On March 23, 2019 @ 7:01 pm

Dear mr. Dreher,

The pacemaker thing about the Netherlands shocked me. But I cannot find any information about it on google and neither in my own medical insurance conditions). Could you let me know where you have the info from?

#33 Comment By Moone Boy On March 23, 2019 @ 7:02 pm

You see, this is why Dr. Evil is [8] and Goldmember is [9]

#34 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 23, 2019 @ 9:46 pm

In 20 years Brussels will be majority Muslim.

As with most other statements of this nature, there is nothing so unreliable as projecting the short-term trends of the past few years indefinitely into the future. Things change. Weather patterns, geopolitics, population flows.

A lot of those old European comics were not just translated into English but had the names and backgrounds of the characters changed as well.

Yes, but here in America we had the Katzenjammer Kids. (And National Lampoon’s parody, the Sicklenhammer Twins, who put the sleeping Capitalist into the pie mama was about to bake.)

#35 Comment By mark_be On March 24, 2019 @ 9:38 am

@ Guiseppe Scalas:

Brussels comprises 11 % of the Belgian population. The total percentage of Muslims living in Belgium is estimated at 8 %. Twenty years might be a long time in politics, but, barring catastrophic change, it isn’t in demographics.

The ISLAM party are a bunch of loons who only attract other loons who nobody’s ever heard of. Last municipal elections, they received less than 2 % of the vote, competing in only two of the 19 municipalities of Brussels. Somehow, shouting “sharia!”doesn’t make all Muslims flock to you.

#36 Comment By cka2nd On March 24, 2019 @ 2:55 pm

[NFR: I know this is going to be hard for you to accept ideologically, but the breakdown of social solidarity did not start with Reagan and Thatcher. People were already writing about individualism and the loss of community as far back as the immediate postwar period. It has to do in large part with the nature of modernity. — RD]

No, I can accept your point about modernity, individualism and the loss of community – I think that is partly reflected in the Bohemian and “Free Love” strains of the pre-war and post-war Left that Siarlys mocks relentlessly, and with which I have my own issues – but I’d say that the academic research shows pretty clearly that the breakdown in social solidarity has advanced a LOT in the last 40 or 50 years. Blowing up the labor movement, built on solidarity as a matter of principle (no matter how often it wasn’t followed in practice) played a real part in it, but so has the loss of leisure time with which people could go out bowling or playing cards, or coach Little League or volunteer at one’s neighborhood school (John Maynard Keynes seemed to think that capitalism was heading towards a 15-hour workweek, when we have actually gone the other way).

To your point, I think the Internet is mostly a bad thing, as much as I am happy to have the Marxists Internet Archive and the Internet Movie (and Broadway!) Databases. But as much time as I spend on the internet as part of the community of Minnesota Vikings fans, or as a reader of your blog, I’m doing it while sitting at home alone, and that is a very different phenomenon from playing a weekly game of cards with friends. And to my point about “If you’re not a billionaire or a millionaire, you can just rot,” I would be hardly the first person to note that we are returning to the class relationships of the Gilded Age, a period before mass unionization and successful mass class struggle raised the living standards of billions of people worldwide. I am not optimistic that Han Chinese social solidarity, or white or black nationalist social solidarity, or Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian social solidarity, or, for that matter, intersectional social solidarity, will have nearly such a profound and mostly positive effect.

#37 Comment By cka2nd On March 24, 2019 @ 2:57 pm

Siarlys Jenkins says: “Rod, didn’t you comment approvingly not too many months ago about a woman in her seventies who wrote that she is old enough to die, and will not for the most part seek or accept medical treatment if something happens to her?”

I believe that was that fine Democratic Socialist, Barbara Ehrenreich.

#38 Comment By Susan On March 24, 2019 @ 4:23 pm

This might be just the thing to start weaning us off socialized medicine… it was always to good to be true. Sooner or later they run out of other people’s money. Bring back charity care.

#39 Comment By Nonymous On March 24, 2019 @ 6:44 pm

My mother, who was 86 years old and did not want to live any more, received weeks of very expensive intensive care to prolong her life by less than two months.

My sister died of cancer despite there being a particular test that could have detected the tumor in time. However, this test was not included in the aftercare screening tests she underwent after the first bout of cancer was successfully treated because it is rarely relevant and is thus deemed not cost-effective for the standard procedure.

Whoever is in charge of deciding who gets tested and treated in what way does take decisions on life and death, at least in terms of probabilities. There is no way around this. My mother would have gladly renounced the care she received if the money spent on her had saved my sister instead. I am not advocating withholding care from the old, I only want to show that decisions that are basically equivalent are being taken all the time.

#40 Comment By Jimmy chonga On March 24, 2019 @ 9:49 pm

The love of many has grown cold.

#41 Comment By merovech On March 25, 2019 @ 7:18 am

As a Belgian I feel I should offer a cynical defense of rationing and euthanasia here. For starters, you cannot organize a society of some 11 million people by simply extending the rules and mores applicable for personal salvation. As noted by others, absent a universal system of coverage or insurance for the elderly (as the US also already has in medicare, it should be noted), healthcare is de facto rationed by wealth. Once that is taken out of the equation and a universal program put in place, rationing will happen by other criteria, given that resources remain scarce. Unless you can conjure up unlimited costly treatments via miracles, that is a reality we have to deal with. You cannot spend a dollar twice, and a dollar spent on someone above 85 will on average not buy you much. No amount of piety, or lack thereof, effects this one way or the other.

To therefore conclude that all kinds nationalized systems of healthcare provision should be avoided so we don’t have to make the tough choices, and just let it default to wealth based rationing, is moral cowardice, or worse, prosperity gospel.

As to euthanasia, I note that you, RD, are of the opinion that we are already living in apocalyptic times. I concur, to a degree. The twin engines of liberalism and capital have dissolved most of our traditional communal and familial ties, to be replaced increasingly with commercial and bureaucratic bonds. It has on average made all our lives miserable in the process, and the greatest victims are the lonely elderly, people who are estranged from their family and have outlived their old (now dissolved) communities.

Things will not improve in their lifetimes. The elderly people who contemplate euthanasia, the families who contemplate it for them – they will not be forging any new Ben Op communities anytime soon. There is no hope for them in this life, and now that god is dead, no promise of eternal life to justify prolonging the agony of dwelling in the purgatory we have made for ourselves.

#42 Comment By Elijah On March 25, 2019 @ 12:15 pm

“Physician assisted suicide was passed by the Legislature of my state, Maryland and will be signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan…”

It was indeed passed by the House of Delegates, but is looking wobblier in the Senate where some actual protections were inserted into the bill, causing at least one activist organization to withdraw its support.

“…healthcare is de facto rationed by wealth…”

@ merovech – too true, but the same rule holds for the state, as well. Healthcare has to be rationed for those least able to pay, least likely to benefit from care. Often this includes the terminally ill, mentally challenged, physically disabled, and those subject to uncurable (but treatable) mental illnesses. This is one of the motivations behind making euthanasia more widely available. This is what is happening right now in Belgium and the Netherlands. And, as is usally the case with these kinds of programs, they work out very well indeed for the wealthy and connected, not so much for the most vulnerable.

Many here can carry on with sturm and drang about how the US system doesn’t care for its vulnerable populations: fine. But at least the system isn’t out to murder them.

#43 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 25, 2019 @ 12:47 pm

I believe that was that fine Democratic Socialist, Barbara Ehrenreich.

I couldn’t believe it, but it was. My memory was clouded by the notion that Rod was quoting a fellow conservative.

#44 Comment By JonF On March 25, 2019 @ 2:30 pm

Elijah,
“Unable to pay” and “Unlikely to benefit” are not synonyms. They don’t even visit each other. An uninsured 20 year old just hit by a car will have years of productive life ahead if s/he can be restored to health. A moribund billionaire will not, and money be damned. Which is not an excuse for euthanasia to be sure. But rationing by money and rationing by likelihood of recovery are very, very different practices. The latter is triage and it has a long and respectable history, notably in disasters and on battlefields.

#45 Comment By TR On March 26, 2019 @ 9:18 am

This has been a far more intelligent discussion for the most part than I would ever have thought possible on this topic. Why I keep coming back when I should be paying more attention to Larison, I guess.

#46 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On March 27, 2019 @ 11:00 am

Re: In 20 years Brussels will be majority Muslim

Even conceding this is true, Brussels is not Belgium.

Belgium has had a hard enough time remaining a united state as it is: if a Muslim majority becomes a real possibility, I think the strains that engenders will lead to the division of the country before they ever come to fruition.