Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peter Singer Doesn't Care if You Die

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Peter Singer is a "bioethicist". This and fifty cents will get you a cup of really bad coffee! Singer has an op-ed in New York Times making the case for the rationing of healthcare. This puts him as a flak for Obamacare.

Governments implicitly place a dollar value on a human life when they decide how much is to be spent on health care programs and how much on other public goods that are not directed toward saving lives. The task of health care bureaucrats is then to get the best value for the resources they have been allocated. It is the familiar comparative exercise of getting the most bang for your buck. Sometimes that can be relatively easy to decide. If two drugs offer the same benefits and have similar risks of side effects, but one is much more expensive than the other, only the cheaper one should be provided by the public health care program.
Or, here's another scenario...same as above, but now, we'll give a kickback to one of the officials in charge of that life saving drug, and see which one is chosen? Like that would never happen! (John Murtha)
Or maybe if stocks of the drug are limited, we can have the official allocate the drugs to those with the most political clout or connections?

In all the history of the world, we've never had problems with elected or unelected officials making bad decisions, unethical decisions or acting out of incompetence.
...And I have a bridge I'd like to sell you!

The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities.

I don't know about you, but I've known some pretty snotty and worthless teenagers! And some 85 year olds saved our bacon on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima. I do not concede the point that all other things being equal, the death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, because all other things are never equal.

Singer goes on to state a formula, which presumably government bureaucrats would use to determine that some anti-social teenage skinhead deserves X amount of healthcare, while an aging WWII vet would receive Y. He doesn't couch it in quite those terms, but if you read Pinheadese, you can figure it out!

How else can Singer quantify your life? Try wading through this:

Health care does more than save lives: it also reduces pain and suffering. How can we compare saving a person’s life with, say, making it possible for someone who was confined to bed to return to an active life? We can elicit people’s values on that too. One common method is to describe medical conditions to people — let’s say being a quadriplegic — and tell them that they can choose between 10 years in that condition or some smaller number of years without it. If most would prefer, say, 10 years as a quadriplegic to 4 years of nondisabled life, but would choose 6 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, but have difficulty deciding between 5 years of nondisabled life or 10 years with quadriplegia, then they are, in effect, assessing life with quadriplegia as half as good as nondisabled life. (These are hypothetical figures, chosen to keep the math simple, and not based on any actual surveys.) If that judgment represents a rough average across the population, we might conclude that restoring to nondisabled life two people who would otherwise be quadriplegics is equivalent in value to saving the life of one person, provided the life expectancies of all involved are similar.

Got it? You're not an individual to him, you're Spam in a can! He can trade two cans of Spam for a pudding pop and a box of Ho-Ho's to be determined later!

Some will object that this discriminates against people with disabilities. (Damn skippy!) If we return to the hypothetical assumption that a year with quadriplegia is valued at only half as much as a year without it, then a treatment that extends the lives of people without disabilities will be seen as providing twice the value of one that extends, for a similar period, the lives of quadriplegics. That clashes with the idea that all human lives are of equal value. The problem, however, does not lie with the concept of the quality-adjusted life-year, but with the judgment that, if faced with 10 years as a quadriplegic, one would prefer a shorter lifespan without a disability.

What one might prefer in an ideal world and how one might face reality are two different matters. While I might say, theoretically, that I would prefer living for only four years without my legs as opposed to ten years with them, that hypothetical is pretty meaningless when it comes down to making a decision based on the reality of the here and now, and not some pointy headed intellectual exercise as to what measures should be taken to maintain health and life. I want to be considered as an individual, not just another cog in the machine. Peter Singer is very much a cog in the machine kind of guy.

"because people are human does not mean that their lives are more valuable than animals." Practical Ethics, Cambridge University Press, 1979, p. 185.

So, Mr. Singer, you cannot tell the difference between the value of my life and an animal's, and yet you want me to trust you and the government you advise to appropriately value the comparison of my life and health to a finite pool of healthcare dollars and make the correct decision? Yeah. Right!

This method of preserving our belief that everyone has an equal right to life is, however, a double-edged sword. If life with quadriplegia is as good as life without it, there is no health benefit to be gained by curing it.
Here in all his pointyheaded liberalness is the fallacy: The "quality" of life is not encompassed by one's physical wholeness. Who are you, Mr. Singer, as a pointyheaded liberal wonk to tell me that the quality of my life is dictated by the number of functioning fingers or toes I have, as long as my mind is active? What right has the government to decide whether I live or die (or lose more toes) on the basis of your flawed reasoning?

Just how disposable are human beings, Mr. Singer?

He not only advocates abortion but also killing disabled babies up to 28 days after they are born. In his book Practical Ethics, he wrote, "When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed.... Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Often, it is not wrong at all."

If this guy represents the way you think, then Obamacare may be for you! If you lean more towards the Descartesian "I think, therefore I am", then you should fight Obamacare with all your strength while you still have it!

Cross posted at Say Anything


  1. AMEN! I'm glad I'm on your side, Proof. :) You wield a pretty mighty pen.

  2. Thank you kindly, Lady C! We do what we can!


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