With the looming probability of a "public option" as a prelude to full-blown national health care, it's important examine the most threatening and even tragic unintended consequences for our society and morality. In recent months, my concerns about these and other drastic political changes have led me to shift my focus from psychiatric reform to the future of America, and I have recently published Wow, I'm an American! How to Live Like Our Heroic Founders.
Universal health care will inevitably lead to bloated, unsustainable expenses. This will be followed by rigorous attempts at cost cutting tailored to progressive values. The first six inevitable consequences deal with cutting costs by suppressing or destroying human life.
First, we will have increased birth control and slower population growth. Why an inevitability? Because in itself birth control is a strong progressive value and because preventing birth is the cheapest way to curtail the cost of pregnancy and child health care under universal health care. In Europe this has led to zero and to negative population growth with dire social and economic consequences. Much worse, an eventual resumption of involuntary sterilization is a real possibility. In the 20th century, the same people who pushed birth control successfully promoted involuntary sterilization, which was inflicted on tens of thousands of inmates of state institutions in California, Virginia and elsewhere.
Second, abortion rates will rise. Again this is inevitable because abortion is already a progressive program and because next to birth control abortion is the most efficient way of eliminating the costs of pregnancy, delivery, and infant and child health care.
Third, euthanasia for medically expensive children will gain in popularity, especially those children who have limited potential to recover and to contribute to society. This will take two forms: passive euthanasia by withholding treatment and active euthanasia in the form of hurrying death.
Fourth, we'll see the promotion of euthanasia for three other vulnerable groups: the chronically ill, the dying, and the elderly. They draw very heavily on health care resources as individual often incur their greatest medical expenses with severe chronic disorders or toward the end of their lives.
Fifth, patients will be pushed out of hospitals into homecare, hospice care, and custodial nursing homes. This will be done under the guise of utilizing more "humane" or even "caring" or "advanced" alternatives to hospital treatment. But in reality it will reduce costs by eliminating more costly care and by shortening lives.
Sixth, assisted suicide, already a progressive agenda item, will be pushed for depressed and suicidal people, pain management patients, and the chronically ill. Once again, cost cutting will masquerade as kindness.
The seventh through the tenth consequences are more general but no less tragic.
Seventh, psychiatry will demand increased use of involuntary drug treatment. In the past people had to be committed to mental hospitals to force treatment on them, but laws in many states now permit involuntary outpatient commitment. Health practitioners invade the home to hold down helpless patients to inject them with mind-numbing toxic drugs against their will. This is far cheaper and more efficient than locking up the same patients in state in mental hospitals, or providing other genuinely helpful forms of rehabilitation or therapy.
Eighth, there will be the expected general rationing of health care. Rationing impacts on everyone, including the chronically or terminally ill, and the elderly. Even acutely ill patients with life-threatening illnesses will be affected. That's why Canadians stream into the US to avoid waiting lines for treatments including lifesaving cardiac surgery.
Ninth, medical innovation and medical investment will decline, and fewer physicians will bring vigor and intelligence to their work. Without our profit-driven system leading the way, new developments in health care will decline for everyone in the world.
Tenth, socialized medicine will lead to the legalization of drugs like marijuana and heroin. There will be two purposes: first, to reduce the cost of the war on drugs, and second to provide a huge new source of tax revenue, similar to the tax on cigarettes, to support the bloated cost of health care.
I believe these are inevitable outcomes of universal or socialized medical care. Only the degree or extent is uncertain. Most if not all are already happening in Europe and to some extent in our more progressive states. But even in Europe these consequences have not yet come close to reaching their most tragic proportions. That is partly because the West still remembers the mass sterilizations in the US and Europe that spanned several decades of the 20th Century. Closely related were the euthanasia programs--the mass murders of state hospital patients and the chronically physically ill--that set the stage for the holocaust in Nazi Germany.
Most importantly, the USA has thus far held back on fully socializing its medical care, thus continuing to provide the world with advances in medicine and moral restraints against the European Culture of Death. Americans must act now to stop the headlong rush toward socialized medicine.
First, we must make every effort to maintain our health care system on a free enterprise footing. Second, we must re-emphasize basic American values of individual freedom and treasuring each and every human life.
Individual freedom of choice is written into all our founding documents, into our history, and into our hearts. Less tangible perhaps is respect for life itself--a treasuring of every individual human life, regardless of practical considerations like financial cost. This is written more into our Judeo-Christian ethics than into our political system. Once we start to weigh the worth of a life versus the cost of its health care or even its existence--we unleash dreadful moral consequences on our society and on ourselves as individuals.
Peter R. Breggin, MD is a psychiatrist in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and the author of more than twenty books and many scientific articles. His newly published book is Wow, I'm an American! How to Live Like Our Heroic Founders. It can be purchased with a bonus interview by Dr. Breggin on www.breggin.com or from Internet bookstores such as amazon.com and bn.com.