Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's the E-Mail, Stupid!

Back in the day (20 or so years go), when I first began using email, a Good Samaritan gave me this bit of advice (to which I more or less scrupulously still adhere):

"Never write anything in email that you wouldn't want showing up in the next day's New York Times."

How incredibly prescient:

"While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue ... We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded."

And where do you suppose this top-secret (and damning) email showed up?

You guessed it.

By now, you may be wondering what, exactly, the author of the email found so potentially damaging. No problem:

"Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment."

As we've previously written, the problem with the concept is that doc's now have financial incentives to push for a quick end to life. Certainly, that's one way to reduce the cost of health care (not to mention help with solvency issues under Social Security and Medicare), but is it right? On its face, sure: choice is almost always a good thing, and one (or one's loving family) should be told of all the choices available.

The problem is that this new missive seems to have been lifted, in toto, from an earlier effort on the part of the VA, written by "Dr. Robert Pearlman ... a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing."

Which brings us back to the email: if this is such a benign and harmless effort, why the need for subterfuge? Inquiring minds want to know.

[Hat Tip: Ace of Spades]
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