This article reports on President Obama’s remarks last night about saving health care costs by avoiding expensive treatments of patients who are deemed to be terminally ill or otherwise unlikely to enjoy a long-term benefit from the procedure. The President is right, of course: one sure way to reduce health care costs is to eliminate the kinds of treatments or procedures that are available under a health care plan, or to limit who may obtain those treatments or procedures.
One issue with the health care debate, however, is whether the American people will want to cede decision-making about the kind of care that is available to them, or their loved ones, to a governmental agency. I think most people view decisions about care, when dealing with diseases like cancer, to be extremely difficult, highly personal decisions. It is one thing for a patient and his or her family to decide that the best course is to not undergo painful or expensive treatments that may have only a small chance of curing an otherwise terminal condition. It is another thing entirely for that decision to be made by a bureaucratic agency.