Pro-Life Group Condemns Defeat of Amendment to Stop Health Care Rationing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Group Condemns Defeat of Amendment to Stop Health Care Rationing

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The leading pro-life group working to get members of the Senate to add an amendment to the Kennedy health care bill to stop rationing is upset that lawmakers voted against the amendment on Monday. Rationing of health care could involve cutting off lifesaving medical treatment and resulting in euthanasia.

The National Right to Life Committee had been pressing members of the Senate HELP Committee to adopt an amendment from Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican.

The committee defeated the Enzi amendment on a partisan vote, with Democrats opposing it and Republicans supporting it.

Enzi’s measure would have prevented the use of “comparative effectiveness” research methodologies as a basis for denial of benefits to patients against their will based on their age, expected length of life, or of the patient’s present or predicted disability or quality of life.

Senators Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, all Republicans, spoke in favor of the pro-life move.

Burke Balch, director of the National Right to Life Committee’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics, emailed about the amendment following the vote.

“The current sources of funds being considered to pay for health care restructuring are so inadequate in the long term that rationing will be compelled,” he charged.

Balch pointed to one example in the medical literature showing an attempt made to assess different “quality adjusted life year” scores for each of the following: “no physical disability, limp, walk with crutches, and need a wheelchair.

In another, the authors wrote, “[I]t may be judged that one year of life with a moderate disability is equivalent to 0.75 years of life at optimal health.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, led the opposition to the amendment, claiming it was unnecessary.

However, Balch said that, while the existing bill language says that comparative effectiveness research such as this “shall not be construed as mandates for payment, coverage, or treatment,” nothing in the current bill prevents it being used to deny treatment.

Balch concluded, “By rejecting the Enzi amendment, the Senate HELP Committee today cleared the way for that rationing to be based on discrimination against people with disabilities, older people, and anyone considered to have a poor ‘quality of life.’”

Related web sites:
National Right to Life –

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