Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel is a health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. He is also the brother of Mr. Rahm Emmanuel, White House Chief of Staff. He has been in the news of late because of the end-of-life counseling provisions found in the House version of the health care reform bill, but dropped from the Senate version. Over the last 16 years, Dr. Emmanuel has regularly published his thoughts on the allocation of health care resources, on the importance of controlling costs, and in looking out not just for an individual patient’s interest, but for the societal or communal interests as a whole.
Betsy McCaughey (Chairman of Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York), writing for the Wall Street Journal, gives a good overview of Dr. Emmanuel’s statements on these mattters, quoting from his medical journal articles and op-ed pieces since 1993. An excerpt:
As he wrote in the Feb. 27, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): “Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality of care are merely ‘lipstick’ cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change.”
True reform, he argues, must include redefining doctors’ ethical obligations. In the June 18, 2008, issue of JAMA, Dr. Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the “overuse” of medical care: “Medical school education and post graduate education emphasize thoroughness,” he writes. “This culture is further reinforced by a unique understanding of professional obligations, specifically the Hippocratic Oath’s admonition to ‘use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment’ as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others.”
In numerous writings, Dr. Emanuel chastises physicians for thinking only about their own patient’s needs. He describes it as an intractable problem: “Patients were to receive whatever services they needed, regardless of its cost. Reasoning based on cost has been strenuously resisted; it violated the Hippocratic Oath, was associated with rationing, and derided as putting a price on life. . . . Indeed, many physicians were willing to lie to get patients what they needed from insurance companies that were trying to hold down costs.” (JAMA, May 16, 2007).
In the Lancet, Jan. 31, 2009, Dr. Emanuel and co-authors presented a “complete lives system” for the allocation of very scarce resources, such as kidneys, vaccines, dialysis machines, intensive care beds, and others. “One maximizing strategy involves saving the most individual lives, and it has motivated policies on allocation of influenza vaccines and responses to bioterrorism. . . . Other things being equal, we should always save five lives rather than one.
“However, other things are rarely equal—whether to save one 20-year-old, who might live another 60 years, if saved, or three 70-year-olds, who could only live for another 10 years each—is unclear.” In fact, Dr. Emanuel makes a clear choice: “When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated (see Dr. Emanuel’s chart nearby).
Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not.”
Dr. Emanuel has fought for a government takeover of health care for over a decade. In 1993, he urged that President Bill Clinton impose a wage and price freeze on health care to force parties to the table. “The desire to be rid of the freeze will do much to concentrate the mind,” he wrote with another author in a Feb. 8, 1993, Washington Post op-ed. Now he recommends arm-twisting Chicago style. “Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda,” he wrote last Nov. 16 in the Health Care Watch Blog. “If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration’s health-reform effort.”
Is this what Americans want?
Read the whole thing.