Star Chamber Medicine

The Star Chamber was a  English court of law where sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses.

If Washington has their way, we may see something similar in our health care system.  In a recent editorial at Bloomberg.com, Betsy McCaughey offers this view of the Spendulus Bill.

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

Nothing insidious about that, right? But it get’s worse.Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties.

“Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Hopeless diasnoses. Sounds like Uncle Sam is ready to pull the plug on Grandma if her condition is what they deem . . . hopeless.

Just because a lot of these ideas were Tom Daschle”s, and he is no longer the HHS Secretary designee, don’t think his fingerprints are not all over health care reform coming from Washington.

The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

Compassion and government are not interchangeable terms.

Welcome to Star Chamber Medicine, U.S. style.

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