Encourage Suicide, Stifle Medical Progress

DrRich | July 17th, 2011 - 2:23 pm


David Brooks last week penned a remarkable opinion piece for the New York Times suggesting that the root problem underlying our unsupportable national debt is the unreasonable desire of Americans to be cured of their illnesses. DrRich finds this an interesting formulation of the problem.

As DrRich has said many times, it is indeed true that our rising cost of healthcare is the chief driver of our national debt, and therefore is the chief threat to our long-term survival as a civil society. But while DrRich and others have proposed solutions to this problem that would rely on new systems for paying for America’s healthcare, Mr. Brooks’ problem statement admits no such solution.

For Mr. Brooks, since the root problem is the unreasonable attitude Americans have toward disease and death, the only solution must be for Americans to change their attitude*.

*The need to change the attitude of the masses – or to say it another way, the need to change human nature – always turns out to be the fatal flaw of the Progressive program.

Brooks opens his piece with a paen to Dudley Clendinen, a former colleague at the Times, who is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Clendinen’s recent article in the Times Sunday Review revealed his plan to commit suicide before allowing himself to become completely incapacitated by his illness.

DrRich suspects that many of his readers will, as he does himself, understand, respect, and even support Mr. Clendinen’s plan. But understanding, respecting and supporting his plan to commit suicide is different from saying that Mr. Clendinen’s decision is so reasonable that, really, everyone ought to reach the same conclusion, and anyone in his position who does not is somehow being unreasonable (or worse).

But this is exactly what Mr. Brooks is saying. Specifically, Brooks says, “But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing — confront death and their obligations to the living.” In other words, Clendinen is doing no more than his rightful duty. He does not deserve praise as much as people who choose otherwise deserve criticism.

This is not Mr. Brooks’ only message. His other message is that medical progress is an illusion. He points out that the War on Cancer, announced in the early 1970s, has still not been won, and that despite all the research we have done, heart disease has still not been cured. He quotes some famous medical ethicists (DrRich’s favorite people, save the public health experts) as saying “our main achievements today consist of devising ways to marginally extend the lives of the very sick.”

DrRich will not argue that all of our investment in medical progress has been stunningly successful. He will simply remind his readers that neither has it all been futile. Hundreds of thousands of cancer survivors are leading happy lives today who would have been dead from their disease in 1970. And while the mortality rate from heart attacks approached 20% in 1970, today (in the U.S at least) it is around 2%. So while we haven’t cured all cancer or all heart disease, our efforts have still improved and extended the lives of a lot of people.

Mr.Brooks, who passes at the New York Times as a “conservative,” is pretty cozy with the Obama administration. And while DrRich would not suggest that his message to us is directly coordinated with the Obama folks, it is likely that it expresses certain beliefs which the administration, at the least, would not find objectionable.

DrRich has long attempted to convince his readers that the Progressive program is very sympathetic to efforts to stifle medical progress, and to hasten the end of life.

Mr. Brooks’ latest effort is a sign that Progressives may be finally beginning to come out of the closet, to stop beating around the bush – and to openly state their actual healthcare agenda. If so, DrRich praises his honesty and forthrightness.


As an aid to Mr. Brooks and his friends, DrRich has produced a very helpful and very detailed roadmap for how to sell assisted suicide to the masses.

4 Responses to “Encourage Suicide, Stifle Medical Progress”

  1. james gaulte says:

    David Brooks,the alleged house conservative of the NYT,continues to out do himself with his pieces.Of course, generally his views are 180 degrees from mine so I read everything he writes with a biased view but this time he could not have spent more than few minutes, if that, researching his thesis that medical progress has been slight and way too expensive.Little progress? what country does he live in? I was an intern when we “treated” heart attacks with morphine and stool softeners and hoped for the best.In the 1970s childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia survival was about zero, now five year survival (and five year survival actually means something here) may be as high as 80%.Medical progress as illusion? I wonder if Mr. Brooks will opt for some illusory care if/when he develops chest pain and shortness of breath. Perhaps,he might behave more like Daniel Callahan,co-founder of the Hastings Institute, when faced at age 79 with a potentially life threatening cardiac issue,opted to go ahead with a ablation procedure to the tune of $80,000.

    • DrRich says:

      Dr. Gaulte,

      As it happens, Callahan is one of the medical ethicists quoted by Brooks as saying that medical progress is illusory. If he indeed remains alive due to recent medical advances, that would merely serve to confirm my prejudice about medical ethicists.


  2. Tom says:

    I am not sure I can follow the moral reasoning which argues that it is an undeniably good thing for people with terminal illnesses to accept their fate and arrange for their own deaths, but it is a horrible and monstrous thing for individuals to be unable to pay for the best and most expensive treatments to extend their lives. Am I missing something here?

  3. Michel Accad says:

    Frightening. Who needs death panels?… Thanks. MA

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