ObamaCare: Death Panels Are a Real Concern After All

It was an article of faith among Obamacare supporters that worry over so-called death panels was simply a cynical ploy by conservative leaders to scare the peasants. Blatant fearmongering, they claimed. Now it’s looking more and more like a valid concern. Writing at the Daily Caller, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute highlights quotes from Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama’s nominee to be director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which suggest that death panels might be on his wish-list.


“I am romantic about the National Health Service. I love it,” he has said about the British health care system. His favorite part of British health care seems to be its rationing arm, the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE). NICE is responsible for determining whether or not the life-extending benefits a patient receives are worth the cost to the government. Dr. Berwick calls this institution a “global treasure.”

How much is a human life worth? About 30,000 per year, according to NICE. Anything more than $44,000 per year of extended life, and NICE is likely to deny treatment. Important drugs that prolong the life of cancer patients, such as Lapatinib and Sutent, are not allowed. Alzheimer’s drugs are also heavily restricted for those in the early stages of the disease despite the fact that the early stages are when treatment can provide the most benefit. Originally pitched as nothing more than a board to promote “best practices,” NICE has become a rationing, death panel machine.

Dr. Berwick thinks this system is so wonderful, we should implement it right here in America. “It’s not a question of whether we will ration care,” he explained in a magazine interview, “It is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” His idea of rationing with eyes open is when “collective action overrid[es] individual self-interest.” The individual he is referring to here, whose interests should not matter, is the patient. The collective action is the death panel.


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