Monday, June 04, 2007
A man in Poland named Jan Grzewski recovered from a 19-year coma recently. Three things immediately strike me as interesting about the case.
First, there will be the inevitable comparisons, medically warranted or not, between this man and Terri Schiavo. I suspect that given the medically distinct terms, "coma" and "persistent vegetative state" for the respective cases of Grzewski and Schiavo, such comparisons will not be medically valid -- not that such silliness as scientific facts would ever deter religionists hell-bent on keeping people alive despite their own wishes and a well-established legal apparatus designed to implement them.
And speaking of the patient's wishes, such comparisons, even if warranted, would be irrelevant. Why? Because we human beings possess the inalienable right to life. Specifically, our own lives are ours, individually. Part of this right to life includes the right to determine the manner and time of our death and , in particular, whether we wish to be kept alive should we end up in certain medical states.
Second, the wonder of Grzewski at the vast improvement in the quality of life within Poland since the fall of Communism is noteworthy:
Wojciech Pstragowski, a rehabilitation specialist, said Grzewski was shocked at the changes in Poland's economy -- especially its stores: "He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only" under communism.Third, the amazement of this sort of time traveller is rather timely and has a direct medical relevance to us today -- here in America, where our shelves never were bare during these nearly two decades.
Poland shed communism in 1989 and has developed democracy and a market economy. [bold added]
If government planning of something as mundane as grocery stores yielded such poor results as shelves full of things nobody needed, why should we expect its running of the far more complex medical sector to be any better?
Paul Hsieh, in a must-read column, presents us with ample evidence that even in prosperous America, such schemes fail, as he chronicles the problems of TennCare and notes the essential problem with all programs of government rationing as he fights against socialized medicine in Colorado:
The problems of TennCare are not aberrations that can be fixed with a few minor reforms. They are inherent in any system of government medicine. Under such systems, bureaucrats and politicians decide what care individuals can receive, not doctors and patients. This has long been the case in Canada's "single-payer" socialized medical system, with its infamous waiting lists for critical medical tests and treatments. For the sake of my patients and myself, I don't want this to happen in Colorado.Or forcing everyone to patronize government-run stores that end up stocking everything you want -- as long as it's mustard or vinegar -- because we need food.
Socialized medicine is not the cure for Colorado's health care problems. Forcing everyone into a government-run medical program because some people are uninsured would be just as wrong as forcing everyone to live in a government-run housing project because some people are homeless. [bold added]
The disastrous TennCare program that Dr. Hsieh discusses has been around for just over a decade. Do we really want to know what two decades of socialism can do to our medical system?
We need to wake up fast or we're going to find out.