Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Peter Singer: Latest Lecture Recommends Rationing Health Care on the Back of Disabled People

Last week, Peter Singer continued his longstanding vendetta against people with disabilities in a public lecture at Princeton University:
Peter Singer, a professor with the University Center for Human Values, presented a talk on “Rationing Health Care” on Tuesday. The event, open to the public, was sponsored by the Student Bioethics Forum.

Currently, the United States spends more per capita than any other country in the world, yet is ranked 176th in infant mortality and 50th in life expectancy according to the CIA World Factbook. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, the United States health care system is ranked 37th. These statistics make “it look like we’re not getting good value for money,” Singer said.
From NDY's perspective, Singer's stating the obvious here.  It's hard to understand how anyone other than affluent people with comprehensive health insurance can see the health care system in the US as even  approaching "adequate" for a large segment of the population.

But, not for the first time, Singer can't stop himself from attacking people with disabilities as part of his argument for more universal access to healthcare:

Although opportunities would never be exactly the same for the poor and rich, if a life is saved regardless of a person’s socioeconomic status, it promotes unity within the society, he added.

However, there remains the problem of what kind of care the country should provide. “We should get ... the health care that provides the greatest benefits for the resources available,” Singer said.

This issue becomes complicated, however, with issues such as end-of-life care and saving disabled people over healthy people. For example, in prolonging life, hospitals spend high amounts of resources that could be used for saving lives. (Emphasis added.)

“We should only be spending on health care that actually benefits people and that benefits the patients,” Singer said.
Interesting wording "saving disabled people over healthy people"?  It seems to me that what he really means is "saving disabled people as well as healthy people."

As I noted earlier, this isn't the first time Singer has assaulted people with disabilities as part of an overall argument in favor of universal access to healthcare.  The July 15, '09 edition of the NY Times Magazine published an essay by Singer titled Why We Must Ration Health Care.  In that essay, Singer made even more egregious - and data-free - arguments for limiting healthcare to people with significant disabilities. 

The disability community responded in a letter to the editors of the NY Times Magazine, who declined to print or respond to the protest letter - signed by 20 disability rights and other advocacy organizations.

Among the many issues relevant to a discussion of any discussion of limiting medical care to people with disabilities is the following, included in the original protest letter:
The proposed treatment – or nontreatment – of people with disabilities also violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She signed the Convention on July 30th at the direction of President Obama. While the Singer essay violates the spirit and vision of the Convention in numerous ways, the most pertinent section of the document is spelled out in Article 25 (f), in which obligates signatories to “prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.” This is important. Article 4(d) states that countries that have signed the Convention agree to “refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention.”
It's clear that Peter Singer has little use for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  That's no excuse to leave the document - and its mandates - out of the discussion.  --Stephen Drake

h/t Wesley Smith


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