Photo of a hospital setting with a COVID-19 test in the foreground

Death Panels in the Age of COVID-19?

In Front Page, Healthcare by Allen West

We can all remember when former Governor of Alaska and GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, made reference to “death panels” in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare. She was denigrated, disparaged, and demeaned savagely by the leftist media. Gov. Palin was actually speaking of a group of non-elected bureaucrats who make up the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This group, or panel, makes decisions on healthcare based upon formulas and pricing criteria, meaning cost.

As far as I know, the IPAB has not been disbanded and still exists. It operates above the scrutiny of Congress. Yes, they are empowered to make decisions about providing healthcare, based primarily upon one criterion: cost. This also means they decide on the apportionment or rationing of our healthcare services.

That is what socialized medicine, healthcare, looks like. And, right now, due to the COVID-19 virus, we are having a discussion about who decides life and death in America.

Right now, due to the #COVID19 virus, we are having a discussion about who decides life and death in America. #coronavirus Click To Tweet

As reported by MSN:

“Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic are engaged in a heated private debate over a calculation few have encountered in their lifetimes — how to weigh the “save at all costs” approach to resuscitating a dying patient against the real danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the contagion of coronavirus.

The conversations are driven by the realization that the risk to staff amid dwindling stores of protective equipment — such as masks, gowns and gloves — may be too great to justify the conventional response when a patient “codes,” and their heart or breathing stops. 

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members — a wrenching decision to prioritize the lives of the many over the one.  

Richard Wunderink, one of Northwestern’s intensive-care medical directors, said hospital administrators would have to ask Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for help in clarifying state law and whether it permits the policy shift. “It’s a major concern for everyone,” he said. “This is something about which we have had lots of communication with families, and I think they are very aware of the grave circumstances.”

Officials at George Washington University Hospital in the District say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate covid-19 patients using modified procedures, such as putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier. The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, one of the country’s major hot spots for infections, is dealing with the problem by severely limiting the number of responders to a contagious patient in cardiac or respiratory arrest.”

This is an undeniably tough situation for our healthcare professionals to have to be in. We must ask ourselves, how did we get to this point?

First, having a daughter who is a Physician Assistant and on the frontlines of this health crisis, we do need more Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. We need to boost up our pool of quality healthcare professionals. As well, we need to look beyond hospitals, and toward the construction of additional healthcare facilities. We have missed opportunities located on our military installations. I have seen countless times that we often build new hospital facilities on our bases and installations, and discard the old facility. Those facilities could be used, regionally, where available, as overflow facilities for times of crisis such as this.

This is an undeniably tough situation for our healthcare professionals to have to be in. We must ask ourselves, how did we get to this point? #COVID19 #coronavirus Click To Tweet

Second, we are America, we should not have a shortage of critical medical supplies. Just as we have the strategic oil reserve, we should have the same for our healthcare system, a strategic reserve. In fact, this is a charge some are laying at Joe Biden’s feet, as it should have occurred during the Obama administration.

Perhaps, the lack of ventilators and other critical medical devices are the result of another Obamacare issue: the Medical Device Tax. It would be interesting to know what effects that tax had on the medical device industry. After all, Nancy Pelosi once quipped, “we have to pass the bill in order to find out what is in it.” Well, Nancy, we now see that the medical device tax could have had an abjectly adverse effect on the production of devices such as ventilators, and even high-capacity masks. Regardless, we need to create a strategic reserve of critical medical supplies and devices. As well, let’s ensure we have absolutely no medical dependency on China, a communist country that is our geo-political foe.

Lastly, I think we need to have annual tabletop medical emergency drills for staff, governmental agencies, etc. We need to think through the next national medical emergency to ensure we are prepared.

These are tough times, but America has seen tough times previously. Yes, there are some very tough decisions being made by our healthcare professionals. But, these decisions should not be based upon a lack of medical devices and supplies…nor rationing.

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