Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (aka CNN Republican debate) – Updated with video

I’m currently watching the CNN/Politico Republican debate, and it is disgustingly biased. Romney and McCain are being allowed to run free, bickering like children rather than discussing real policy, while Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee are essentially being ignored. I understand the latter two candidates are not polling as high, but given that this election is an ongoing process, it would be nice to hear them given a chance to talk.

Following the link at the bottom of the TV screen, I went to CNN’s politics site to give my feedback. I posted my comment 30 minutes ago, and while comments have been approved all around mine, mine is still “awaiting moderation.” So I’m not sure if my comment will be censored (i.e. never posted) or not, but thank goodness for the blogosphere, where my speech can be free in all it’s glory. Here was my comment:

January 30, 2008 8:57 pm ET

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

“It’s amazing that with only 4 candidates on stage, the moderators still manage to all but ignore Ron Paul. It’s like some sick political circus – if it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny. It’s no longer shocking at this point, and indeed I expect Paul to be pushed to the side during debates because that has occurred at almost every single Republican forum up to this point.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse, though, Anderson Cooper cuts him off in the middle of his response regarding Supreme Court Justice nominations…while of course letting the other candidates finish their responses. I don’t know whether this was Cooper’s decision, or the decision of some producer or executive, but it is shameful. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a candidate’s position, the point of a debate is to give them time to expand upon their views and policy ideas. If you’re not going to let him talk, why invite him to sit on the stage?”

Perhaps I should clarify that I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I do not own a tin-foil hat nor stock up on food awaiting the end of the world. I’m a 25 year old medical student who was raised in an independent/moderately conservative household. I have friends, I do fun things in my spare time, I volunteer in my community…in short, I am a “normal” person, whatever that means. And it is obvious to me either (1) the media has written Ron Paul off and doesn’t think he deserves time in the debate, but they feel forced to invite him due to his successful fundraising (though of course still free to ignore both him and Huckabee), or (2) the general public is too stupid and thus doesn’t understand when Paul discusses the Austrian business cycle, so CNN doesn’t want to bother their pretty heads with actual thought, and prefers to serve up the Presidential equivalent of a WWF match instead of a debate.

Plus, as I was writing this and the debate was wrapping up, Anderson Cooper discussed his views on the debate, saying it was “heavy on policy.” If I had been drinking milk, it would have squirted out of my nose. There was almost no policy being discussed there…instead it was rambling, arguing, and pandering. If I took my blood pressure right now, I’m sure it would be through the roof, because having to watch this take place really pisses me off. The fact that I care this much means that our government has way too much power and influence over my life. When a clip is put up on youtube of Ron Paul’s awesome response on Iraq (the only decent chance he got to speak), I will post it here. In the meantime, enjoy my rant…feel free to add your own rant about the sad state of American politics, in both the Republican and Democratic parties. We need to take our country back, instead of letting greedy politicians and their big-corporation lobbyists run the world.

One last rant – Politico.com offered a chance over the past few days for web surfers to post their own questions for the debate or vote on other questions (you can still go to their site to vote for the Democrat’s questions). I spent a good hour going through those questions trying to vote on good ones that would get to the heart of policy, while giving all of the candidates a chance to answer. I can’t see what the top 10 questions are now since the debate is done, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t use any of them. Seriously…what was the point of even letting people submit and vote for questions? Grrrr…

~ Lily

Update:

A video containing the entire 7 minutes and 55 seconds Ron Paul was allowed to speak during the debate (which was around 90 minutes). At the 3 minute mark is where he gets cut off by Anderson Cooper (I love how Paul rolls his eyes at this). Around 3:20 is his response to keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years – he draws applause three times during his answer.

Paul’s points (and let me know if this sounds crazy to you):

  • Both Romney and McCain agree on foreign policy and are only arguing about technicalities, rather than discussing real issues and differences
  • Republicans were elected in 1952 to stop the war in Korea, and in 1962 were elected to stop the war in Vietnam
  • How many men are Republicans willing to let die for a cause that has nothing to do with national security? Specifically
    • the fact that Iraq had no Al Quada members (until we went in)
    • Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 (the suicide bombers were from Saudi Arabia, and here on legal visas)
    • Iraq was not a threat to our national security – they never committed aggression (no preemptive strike, and we were lead in there based on lies that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”)
    • The war is unconstitutional – it was never declared by Congress as it is supposed to (as laid out in our Constitution), and is thus ILLEGAL

Boy, those sound like the most bat-shit crazy ideas I’ve ever heard…thank you CNN for protecting my fragile mind from such dangerous words (note excessive sarcasm). I would also add that the war in Iraq is not just killing American men and women, but many more Iraqis – most of whom are innocent. Something tells me “100 years” McCain could care less about such “trivial” details.

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A sad day for those who frequent NYC’s Chinatown

Federal authorities arrested 3 Chinese citizens over the past 2 days, accusing them of operating one of the largest counterfeit operations, which involved designer handbags.

The price of those “knock-off” Gucci, Coach, and Louis Vuitton bags purchased on NYC’s Canal St. are likely going to rise after these arrests, though my guess is that there are plenty of people willing to take the place of the 3 arrested and continue bringing the merchandise into the US. I really would love to see the numbers on the price increase – it would show whether authorities significantly curtailed the flow of illegal goods, or merely spent lots of time and resources to catch a tiny drop in a very large and lucrative bucket.

Thoughts? Do you think these arrests will discourage the importation of counterfeit goods, or do you think others will get in line to ensure the products continue to flow into the US?

~Lily

Source – CNN – “Chinese charged over fake handbags

Daily dose of crazy – Mike Huckabee vs. the US Constitution

Huckabee proves that his ultimate goal is to turn the US into a Christian theocracy. He has no respect for the Constitution, and wants to change it to reflect his values, even if that means discriminating against others (like gays).

Quote from speech above (before the Michigan primary):

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards, rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Last time I checked, the US Constitution wasn’t exactly a “contemporary” document – granted some of the amendments aren’t that old, but the first amendment (which states in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) was ratified in 1791. If Mike Huckabee (or if you prefer the nickname given by his friends – the “Huckster”) wants to amend the Constitution so that it reflects the “word of the living God”, he would seem to be violating the very first amendment to a document I consider nearly sacred.

I doubt the Huckster would appreciate it if a Jew or Muslim (or any Christian denomination not fitting his narrow view of the world) tried to change the constitution to reflect their specific religious values. This is exactly what the document is supposed to protect against – value what you like within your home, but don’t force your religious belief system on anyone else. (Golden rule, anyone?)

Perhaps the real question, though, is whether Mike Huckabee actually intends to change the Constitution if elected President, or if he is merely pandering to a narrow Evangelical sect of our society in order to win a few votes? Either way, his words scare the crap out of me, and should scare a lot of Americans, Christian or other. (Did I mention he’s a big-government type who likes to raise taxes?) Seriously, please don’t vote for this guy.

~Lily

Daily dose of crazy – Tom Cruise edition

Tom Cruise (incoherently) discussing Scientology. Apparently this video keeps “mysteriously” disappearing from YouTube, so I’m not sure how long the link will last. The insane laughter at the end is the highlight (although the Mission Impossible theme music in the background is also a nice touch). Enjoy…

~Lily

Daily dose of crazy – today’s winner

Let me start by saying that I live in a big city, with a lot of crazy people who like to shout at other people. I see men and women talking to themselves, or yelling at a random piece of trash on the sidewalk which, apparently, is talking back to them (I think there’s a lot of undiagnosed Schizophrenia in my city). But this was different. Both frightening and funny at the same time, it went something like this…

Me – walking along the sidewalk, minding my own business

Crazy man – about a block away, yelling at random women walking past

Me – within a few feet of crazy man

Crazy man turns to me, his new target, and says shrieks “Evil woman! Homosexuals exist because of evil women like you!”

Why anyone would move to the suburbs and miss out on gems like this is beyond me. Misogynistic and homophobic at the same time. To think that I, a heterosexual married woman, was responsible for all the gay men in the world. Who knew I had such power? Guess I should be more careful how I use it from now on, cause ya know…with great power comes great responsibility. (aw come on – you know you laughed a little at that one)

~ Lily

First, Kill the Department of Education, THEN Kill all the School Boards

Matt Miller has a piece in this month’s Atlantic (sorry, subscription required), decrying the abysmal state of education in America. I am certainly with him as far as this goes. He cites numerous statistics that give America at best a middling place in the world hierarchy, and at worst, given our outlandish expenditures on public schools, the dubious distinction of international dunces.

Unfortunately, our agreement ends at the description of the facts of the tragedy, because Miller immediately proceeds to place the blame of lagging performance on the dispersed local structure of our system. The solution for which he advocates is to replace local decisions with federal standards. His solution is tragically flawed and reflective of a mindset that greets government failure as an invitation to expand government.

There are a host of problems with Miller’s analysis and argument; I will focus on one: his contention that America’s declining performance is a consequence of too much local control.

Miller begins by lamenting that America is currently divided into 15,000 school districts which obstruct grand national schemes to rectify problems within the network as a whole. Strangely, he immediately undercuts his argument that decentralization produces stagnation and decline by subsequently noting that at one time in our nation’s past there were over 150,000 school districts. While we have not seen anything like a 10-fold decrease in educational attainment relative to our past, neither have our schools improved by that measure. If anything, the correlation between district number and student achievement would seem to suggest a causative pattern running directly counter to that put forward by Miller. By the same token, the period of the last thirty years which most regard as showing the most precipitous drop-off in American education also coincides with an unprecedented expansion of the federal government into American classrooms. Miller argues that No Child Left Behind doesn’t give central authorities enough power to set standards, but is he really going to suggest that it hasn’t enlarged federal control at all? It’s strange too for him to lament that local school boards are presently over-matched by teacher’s unions with a large national presence. How does he think this dynamic will change when the teacher’s unions no longer have to deal with 15,000 individual boards and can instead focus all their lobbying efforts on a single target in Washington? For my part, I see such a future as incredibly bleak from the standpoint of a parent or child trapped in the public system. What possible leverage could they exert against an established lobby claiming literally millions of members with like interests? So to sum up: no, local control is not the problem, and even if it were, the control is not as local as Miller imagines.

If what we really desire is an improvement in educational outcomes, then the solution is simple: return control of the money spent on education to those with the highest vested interest in seeing that is well spent, a.k.a. parents. Nothing holds service providers to a higher level of accountability than the forces of a free-market. If you want evidence of this in a specific educational context you need look no further than our own post-secondary collegiate system which is still to this day the envy of the world. I agree with Miller that school boards, even at an intensely local level, are problematic. He thinks they are too ill-informed and politically unaccountable to achieve satisfactory performance. I see the problem arising from the fact that dissident members of the community are forced to submit to and even subsidize a program that they oppose. So I agree, let’s kill all the school boards, but can we please not replace them with a School Magisterium.

~Fox

STOP! Discard all matches and lighters. Straw men abound.

Michael Kinsley has a piece in this morning’s WaPo impugning the philosophy of libertarianism and by extension the presidential campaign of Ron Paul. Despite being mentioned by name in the title of the article, Ron Paul appears only twice in the body of the text and only once does the author address a specific Paul proposal. The bulk of Kinsley’s energies are spent on mocking a caricature of libertarian positions. He avoids the use of profanity, but his tone is incredibly hostile and condescending. Still, he is worth engaging since he is relatively polite and seems to represent the perspective of a large swath of the American public.

Here are some of Mr. Kinsley’s questions, meant to both represent and confound libertarians, followed by my answers:

Q: How do you justify laws that forbid private behavior such as the use of recreational drugs?

A: Such laws are inconsistent with the principle of individual autonomy. Assuming that by private behavior Kinsley is referring to acts that physically affect only the actor, then we can safely say that no one else’s rights are being violated, thus no one else has a right to interfere with the choices that person makes.

Seeing a person succumb to addiction or critically injure themselves while engaged in dangerous sport can be profoundly saddening experiences. The mental anguish imposed on others is very real, and I would never seek to discount it. Government, however, lacks both the authority and ability to regulate the emotional states of its citizens. This is the basic concept outlined in the first amendment. It is also a concept familiar to most pre-schoolers, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Psychological pain is real, but it does not justify physical retaliation.

Q: How do you justify government programs that redistribute one person’s money to someone else?

A: First of all, we should be intellectually honest and rigorous and replace the word “redistribute” with “forcibly confiscate from one to give to another.” This is an act of theft, and it is not justifiable. Where members of society are incapable of supporting themselves, other members of society will organize to assist them. This is the process known as charity, and it is a completely voluntary process meaning no one is deprived of their rights at any time. As a matter of principle, this is the only logically consistent path for a libertarian to follow. From a more utilitarian perspective, it also comes out on top as it has been shown time and again that government programs intended to combat poverty end up nurturing it instead. For more detailed analysis see this book.

Q: Why does the government pay farmers not to grow food?

A: Farmers have effectively lobbied government to steal from taxpayers and give to them. As a practical matter it is the problem of distributed costs and concentrated gains. Kinsley made no attempt to defend this government practice, so I will not spend any more time assailing it. Does anyone think this is a good idea?

Q: Why are medications for fatal diseases sometimes held off the market in case they aren’t safe?

A: Government bureaucrats believe that maintaining the consistency of their program, in this case the FDA’s drug approval process, trumps the life or death concerns of a terminally ill patient and her doctor. As a libertarian, I find this perspective appalling. These are consenting adults making one of the most important decisions possible. It is difficult for me to contemplate the perspective of an outsider that feels entitled to interfere.

At this point, Kinsley leaves off the interrogatory and ventures into the expository mode of speech, but before I tackle his specific assertions regarding libertarian philosophy, I would ask any so interested to examine my responses to the above questions and decide if they are illogical or inhumane. Despite Kinsley’s perspective, I do not believe that valid premises and sound logic lead people down “wacky paths.” It seems much more likely to me that those that oppose rational discourse are indulging in “wackiness.”

Now onto the specific complaints.

Read the rest of this entry »

Test your God logic

Is your belief in God (or lack of belief) logically sound? Take this quiz and see if you contradict yourself: Battleground God.

I took 1 hit and bit 1 bullet, meaning at one point I contradicted my own beliefs and on another instance rejected rational constraints on religious discussion which, according to the site, “most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable.” What can I say? Still, apparently this qualifies me for the “medal of distinction” (along with about half the people who took the quiz):

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting very few bullets suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent.

Check it out – it only takes about 5 minutes.

Via The Friendly Atheist

~Lily

David Boaz speaks out about “Ron Paul’s Ugly Newsletters”

David Boaz is the Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank in DC. In his latest post at the blog “Cato @ Liberty”, Boaz discusses the racist remarks found in old newsletters published under Ron Paul’s name, and the implications this has for the libertarian movement. Says Boaz:

We had never seen the newsletters that have recently come to light, and I for one was surprised at just how vile they turned out to be. But we knew the company Ron Paul had been keeping, and we feared that they would have tied him to some reprehensible ideas far from the principles we hold.

Ron Paul says he didn’t write these newsletters, and I take him at his word. They don’t sound like him. In my infrequent personal encounters and in his public appearances, I’ve never heard him say anything racist or homophobic (halting and uncomfortable on gay issues, like a lot of 72-year-old conservatives, but not hateful). But he selected the people who did write those things, and he put his name on the otherwise unsigned newsletters, and he raised campaign funds from the mailing list that those newsletters created.

And later:

Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect “paleoconservative” ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism.

Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick. Shame on them.

Word. I agree, and I might add that I “heart” David Boaz. 🙂 He is a wonderful writer, and absolutely brilliant when it comes to understanding and communicating libertarian philosophy.

I have a lot of views in common with Ron Paul, which is why it has been so fun for me to follow this latest election cycle. I certainly don’t agree with him on every issue, but was surprised to hear a politician discussing the importance of a constitutionally-limited government and personal liberties, who had a record that supports the rhetoric. But these newsletters have been tough to swallow. I understand they’re decades old, and not explicitly attributed to him, but they were still published under his name. It leaves supporters with a tough dichotomy – either Ron Paul supported (or at the least did not condemn) those views published, or he failed to show any oversight or executive power when it came to reviewing what was to be published under his name. In short, was he bigoted or inept? I don’t know.

Paul was interviewed on CNN yesterday by Wolf Blitzer, in which he tries to distance himself from the newsletters and point out how he is one of the few candidates discussing repeals of federal drug laws which unfairly target minorities. Indeed, I am unaware of anything within his voting record that would indicate he holds or acts upon racial or homophobic views. Regardless, as a libertarian I will follow Boaz’s advice and explicitly state that I condemn the views published in those newsletters. I know of no self-identified libertarians who hold such opinions – in fact, many of us believe in the importance of civil liberties in part because we personally identify with an oppressed minority group (whether it be racial, sexual-orientation, religious, etc). I hope these newsletters are not attributed to the libertarian movement, because they are as anti-libertarian as it gets.

~ Lily

Sources/related info:

David Boaz – “Ron Paul’s Ugly Newsletters

James Kirchick of “The New Republic” – “Angry White Man

Video of Wolf Blitzer CNN interview with Ron Paul – part 1, part 2

John McCain’s doublespeak

I used to think that John McCain was just an anomaly on the political radar, and that no one really took him too seriously (even on the Hill he has a reputation of being a bit of a hot-head)…that is, until he took first in the New Hampshire Republican primary, and is now polling first in South Carolina.

Who is this guy? Or better yet, who the heck are the people that like him so much that they would willingly spend a portion of their day waiting in line to cast a vote for him? I held this attitude before the Fox News debate last night, and expected some sort of revelation during the debate – an “aha” moment – that would explain his appeal. It never happened. I’m continuously amazed at the jumble of statements that falls out of his mouth, and how anyone can make sense of them.

I thought for sure his race would be finished with the infamous “100 years in Iraq” statement made last week – you know, the one where he said he’d be ok with us staying in Iraq for 100 years or more (which in reality is more like saying he plans on staying in Iraq forever). Ron Paul called McCain out on his eager willingness to commit 5 more generations of American youth to the conflict in Iraq, to which McCain had a bit of a Freudian slip, saying “I guess, very briefly, it’s not American casualties. It’s American presence — I mean, not American presence. It’s American casualties.” Hmm…a case of doublethink on the part of the Arizona senator?

Then last night at the debate he discussed Iraq and said the decision to bring troops home should be made by General Petraeus – perhaps McCain forgot that the President is supposed to be the Commander in Chief. Or maybe such titles only apply to a legal war – that is, one that has been declared by Congress rather than simply funded by it.

Last night McCain, when asked about our economy, said “I don’t believe we’re headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong, and I believe they will remain strong.” He referred to the current woes as merely a “rough patch” – apparently the rise in unemployment, bursting housing bubble, and rapidly inflating dollar (to name a few) are only minor setbacks. Many economists are predicting a recession this year, and it baffles me that someone can be considered a major contender for leader of this nation who doesn’t understand basic economic principles. You simply can’t expect a man like John McCain to pull this nation through a recession – since in his mind doesn’t even exist.

The highlight of last night’s debate, at least as far as Senator McCain is concerned, came when discussing immigration. First, he blamed Bush’s failed immigration reform on the American people, saying we “had no trust or confidence in the federal government to do its job” and that we “need to restore [our] trust and confidence.” I’m sure he actually meant to say that the government needs to do its job so that our confidence can be restored, but that’s not how the words spewed from his mouth. He then went on to discuss how his home state, Arizona, has done a terrible job securing their borders…and that this qualifies him for tackling the issue of securing the borders of the entire nation. Yeah…explain how that works again? Says McCain:

“I know how to secure the borders. I come from a border state where our borders are broken. More people come across our border illegally every year than most any other state. And I will secure the borders first. And I will have the border states’ governors certify that those borders are secured. And we can do it with UAVs, with vehicle barriers, with walls, and with high-tech cameras.”

He (along with many other candidates last night) have tried to steal Obama’s message of “change”, but I strongly believe (my husband is an actuary after all) that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If John McCain is unable to secure the borders in Arizona, how can a Republican voter believe him when he says he “knows how to secure the borders.” If he is a candidate of “change”, then one should be able to look back at his record and see him voting for the side that takes us away from the status quo – but you will not be able to find that in his record.

John McCain seems only to believe in imperialism. When Ron Paul began discussing how the US gives money and weapons to Arab nations and merely funds all of these middle eastern conflicts rather than establishing a policy of peaceful trade, McCain responds ” I’m not interested in trading with Al Qaida. All they want to trade is burkas. I don’t want to travel with them. They like one-way tickets.” It got a laugh, which is unfortunate, because McCain just stereotyped every Arab nation and citizen as a group of terrorists. Nevermind that Al Qaida’s numbers have grown as we send more of our military over to the Middle East.

To summarize what I’ve learned about John McCain’s views in the past week:

  • we need to stay in Iraq for ever, regardless of how many US soldiers or Iraqi innocents are slaughtered in the process
  • General Petraeus, rather than the Commander in Chief, should be in charge of making military decisions
  • the impending recession is merely a figment of our imagination (job loss? housing bubble? inflation? ‘Tis but a flesh wound)
  • Americans have no trust in our government, which is our problem, not the government’s
  • A failed record of securing borders against illegal immigrants qualifies you for securing borders against illegal immigrants
  • All brown people are burqa-wearing, Al Qaida-card-carrying terrorists

Remind me again why he’s so popular? The scariest thing about John McCain just might be that he believes every word that comes out of his mouth.

~Lily

Sources:

The American Chronicle (1/11/08) – “John McCain’s Newspeak Express

Transworld News – “John McCain leads South Carolina Poll Released by Rasmussen Reports

Transcript of the Fox News South Carolina Republican debate via “The State

Who gets to make end of life decisions?

This is currently being debated by our neighbors to the north, where a situation is unfolding involving the family of an 84 year old man on a ventilator and the hospital/medical staff currently treating him.

Background:

Samuel Golubchuk is an 84 year old Orthodox Jew who suffered brain injury and multi-organ failure, and was at some point admitted to the hospital and hooked up to a ventilator. Many times when we imagine a brain-injured person hooked up to such a machine, we (as a lay person) assume that they can’t breathe on their own – note that this is certainly not always the case, and that mechanical ventilation is often provided to people who are merely having difficulty breathing and need some assistance until they get better. Sometimes people can be removed from ventilators, and sometimes they are so sick that it is one of the only things keeping them alive. Before the advent of mechanical ventilators, death was usually based upon the heart – when your heart stopped beating, you were dead. But now we have so many ways of keeping the body alive, that death (from a medical point of view) is based upon brain function – you are dead when you no longer have meaningful brain activity. It all gets confusing when you add the various terminology including vegetative state, persistent vegetative state, etc where a person’s body appears alive, but clinically/medically they are defined as “dead.” For simplification, it is enough to know that Mr. Golubchuk is not (based on what I’ve read) clinically brain dead – he is merely very sick, and at the age of 84 this is never a good sign. He may not die immediately, but certainly the odds are not in favor of his living for much longer.

Now, enter into this picture the Canadian health system, and the doctors it employs. The hospital treating Mr. Golubchuk, having decided the prognosis is not favorable, wants to remove his ventilator and “hasten his death.” Though not stated directly, we must look at this as a case of resource rationing – the system only has so many ventilators available, and it would be a more efficient use of resources to give the ventilator to someone who has better odds of surviving (e.g. a younger patient).

Enter Mr. Golubchuk’s family – they argue that his condition has been improving, and that he has even regained consciousness. As Orthodox Jews, it is against their religious beliefs to remove the ventilator – plus the patient had signed an advance directive specifically saying that he wants to be kept alive. Says Prof. Shimon Glick, a leading Israeli medical ethics expert:

“From a halachic point of view, removing a feeding tube from a patient who has any brain function is active euthanasia, equivalent to murder… But here, in addition, unless the patient has specifically indicated by advance directive that such is his desire, one has a violation of the patient’s autonomy, as well.”

Alright, so enough background – what do you think should be done in this situation? If you were paying taxes to support such a system, is it fair for your money to be spent on someone who has a small chance of recovery at the expense of other people who might benefit more? If you were in that situation, would it be fair to have your beliefs and specific wishes (as indicated on a legal document) trumped by a physician who has decided the plug should be pulled?

There is no easy answer in this case, given the public funding of the health care system. Many people (in the US at least) seem to think that a national health care system would solve all of our problems, but it really should be seen as a trade-off. Some people gain access into a system that was previously unaffordable, but in the process you lose a (significant) degree of liberty. For me, a libertarian, this is unacceptable. I do not want a doctor, hospital, or government official dictating my health care choices. I don’t want to be “rationed” according to someone else’s belief system. In fact, this quote from Dr. Jeff Blackmer (executive director, office of ethics, for the Canadian Medical Association) scares the bejeezus out of me:

“Our viewpoint is that we want to make sure that clinical decisions are left to physicians and not judges…These decisions are not made lightly and they’re not made in haste, and they’re not made with anything except the best interest of that individual patient at heart.”

The only person who has the patient’s best interests at heart is the patient! And if the patient is incapacitated, as in the case of Mr. Golubchuk, it should defer to his legal wishes or immediate family.  From the standpoint of an American hospital, this situation is baffling. Certainly we have end-of-life issues as well, but rarely of this sort. From the perspective of the Canadian health system, however, the case may be rare but is unlikely to be unique (particularly when you consider our rapidly aging population). How many times each day must difficult decisions be made within such a system as to who gets what test/procedure/equipment, and who doesn’t? I’m not saying the US system is perfect (far from it!), but our way of”rationing” is very different. Americans who favor a single-payer national health system need to think carefully about situations such as these. How much of your individual decision-making abilities are you willing to hand over to a stranger? It will be interesting to see what the Canadian judge decides in this case (I believe it is scheduled for sometime this week).

~Lily

Sources:

Insure Blog – “A troubling conundrum

Jewish Post (1/7/07) – “Canadian judge to rule on Jew facing euthanasia

Retuers (UK – 12/14/07) – “Canadian life-support case pits religion vs. science