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Over Treament

Over Treament

With utter dismay I’ve been following President Obama’s unconscionable usurpation of limitless executive power with regards to the War in Libya. And let us clear: The bombing of Libyan ground targets, the arming of rebels, and CIA presence on Libyan soil (in an advisory capacity, so they say) all represent aggressive acts of war. This is a third war we have now embarked upon in a Muslim country. Absurdly, once again, American missiles are being fired at a country that poses absolutely zero threat to our national security. And this time our Commander in Chief has committed us to war by executive fiat. No congressional approval. No meaningful debate. Not even a symbolic vote by the legislature to at least give the pretense of abiding by the dictates of Article I of the US Constitution. Everything this man campaigned on—- hope and change, the dawn of a post-partisan era, the end of the Imperial Presidency—–all a complete fraud.

I’m no foreign policy guru. I’m not there in the Situation Room. I don’t presume to think that my feelings wouldn’t be different if I had access to all the relevant information that the national security council has. But such a monumental decision cannot be contingent on personal feelings. It’s one thing to help avert a potential slaughter, such as at Benghazi (although such rationale appears to be somewhat arbitrary; otherwise why aren’t there bombs raining down in the Ivory Coast, Yemen and Bahrain?) It’s quite another to unilaterally assert the right to bomb the bejeesus out of a foreign land. We are not a nation of Great Benevolent Men. We are rather a nation of laws. Believe it or not, even the President of the United States must abide.

I see parallels in this current military overreach with what is happening in healthcare. We spend 30% of a person’s lifetime Medicare outlays on care provided during the last year of his or her life. We spent $50 billion of Medicare dollars last year on dying patients’ last two months of life. Why are we doing this? Why has that 30% number remained unchanged for almost 30 years? Why do I continue to see consults on demented 89 year olds in the ICU who are intubated and unresponsive and suffering from multiple organ failure? And they linger for days and days. And the chart contains consults from numerous highly trained specialists, all dutifully offering the best that American health care can provide.

Is it greed? In our procedure-oriented, profit-driven health care culture, you eat what you kill. Why spend an hour doing a thorough history and physical examination, talking with family members and concluding that no further treatment is warranted when you can send your PA to do a quick consult, sign her note, and schedule the patient for a lucrative procedure the next day. Are we in Libyan merely to protect Italian oil interests? Are we there just to safeguard British Petroleum investments? Or is it truly a «humanitarian» venture?

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