Americans Want to Live Longer? How Gauche, Sniffs the New York Times

November 20th, 2009 5:05 PM

Friday’s front-page “news analysis” by New York Times health care reporter Kevin Sack, “Culture Clash in Medicine,” dealt with two recent recommendations from quasi-government panels on limiting testing for breast cancer and cervical cancer. The recommendations have caused some outcry as a possible prelude to Obama-care rationing, concerns Sack dismissed as “anger and confusion” and some “political posturing.”

That stance is predictable: Previous front-page Times stories have nudged readers toward rationing with tales of “costly” new heart valves for the "frail" old, "wasteful" medicines and "expensive" new medical procedures that are only worth "a few months" of extra life.

The Times, which editorially supports universal health care coverage, seems to be trying to soften people up into accepting future limits on end-of-life care in the name of reducing national health care costs.

Sack managed to make the desire of Americans to live longer sound gauche, while suggesting that those who fear the recommendations are a harbinger of rationing are confused or just grandstanding against Obama:

This week, the science of medicine bumped up against the foundations of American medical consumerism: that more is better, that saving a life is worth any sacrifice, that health care is a birthright.

Two new recommendations, calling for delaying the start and reducing the frequency of screening for breast and cervical cancer, have been met with anger and confusion from some corners, not to mention a measure of political posturing.

The backers of science-driven medicine, with its dual focus on risks and benefits, have cheered the elevation of data in the setting of standards. But many patients -- and organizations of doctors and disease specialists -- find themselves unready to accept the counterintuitive notion that more testing can be bad for your health.

“People are being asked to think differently about risk,” said Sheila M. Rothman, a professor of public health at Columbia University. “The public state of mind right now is that they’re frightened that evidence-based medicine is going to be equated with rationing. They don’t see it in a scientific perspective.”