Jun 13, 2013

“Some Live and Some Die”

House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.

June 17, 2013


Mr. Speaker:

Last week, the nation learned of the plight of Sarah Murnaghan, the ten-year- old who will die within weeks unless she gets a desperately needed lung transplant.  There are no pediatric lungs available – but there are adult lungs, which her doctors say would be entirely satisfactory for her condition.  But because she is nearly 11 years old but not 12, the bureaucratic regulations prohibited it. 

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius could have modified those regulations to conform to the judgment of the doctors. 

But she wouldn’t.  Her warm words of sympathy for Sarah and her family at a Congressional hearing last week were horrific: “some live and some die.” 

Fortunately a federal judge intervened and concluded what Sebelius wouldn’t – that the regulations are arbitrary and capricious and thank God Sarah is now on the adult transplant list.  But the incident provided all of us with a chilling look at what health care will be like when bureaucrats like Kathleen Sebelius are making more and more of our healthcare decisions.

Sebelius constructed a straw man to argue with.  She said that we shouldn’t have public officials making these choices, and a lung provided to Sarah necessarily means a lung denied to someone else. 

That is utterly disingenuous.  Sarah’s family, joined by many members of the House, were not calling for Sebelius to pick winners or losers, but rather were calling for her to place the judgment of the doctors ahead of the rigid one-size-fits all dictates of the federal bureaucracy in all such cases – not just this one.

And the fact is, Ms. Sebelius IS picking who lives and who dies – the difference is that she is doing so not by deferring to the judgment of doctors but rather by conforming to the cold and rigid regulations that cannot discern between individual cases.

This is the process to which we are about to consign every American as government dictates every detail of their health coverage.  Sorry – you’re a few months too young or too old.  Tough luck – some live and some die.

My chief of staff grew up in the Soviet Union, where the first question asked when an ambulance was called was, “how old is the patient?”

That’s what bureaucracies do.  They choose who wins and who loses; who lives and who dies; and they do so in a blind, cold, unthinking and unreasonable manner.    

The fact is we don’t want officials making these choices – which is exactly what Ms. Sebelius was doing.  Those decisions should not involve the government, but rather should be determined by the individual judgment of the professional physicians directly involved.

Until the court stepped in, that’s what this administration was impeding.  And that shouldn’t surprise us – this is the same administration that has substituted the individual medical insurance choices once made by families, with the one-size-fits-all mandates of the very same federal officials who dismissively tell dying ten year olds “some live and some die.”

Mr. Speaker, this incident was a dire warning to us all of the danger that lies just ahead for every American. 

Remember that the same IRS that abused its fearsome authority to harass and intimidate ordinary Americans for political reasons, next year will have the power to enforce the regulations over our families’ choice of health plans under Obamacare.

Each of us as Americans may one day face the same peril as Sarah Murnaghan, because of what we set in motion by empowering this government to take an ever-widening role in our health care decisions.  We have taken a process that once was determined by individual choice and was once guided by the professional judgment of the physicians who actually gathered around the patient’s bed, and turned those decisions over to the likes of Kathleen Sebelius.

And I am afraid in coming years we will pay dearly for that duplicity as we move ever closer toward the Brave New World of bureaucratically controlled health care that we can already see so clearly through a ten year old’s life-or-death battle with the federal bureaucracy.

Tom McClintock
Tom`s Blog