Healthcare Reform and Utilitarian Ethics

Yuval Levin discusses the two approaches to healthcare reform today in Help the Sick and Reduce the Debt: The Moral Economy of the Health-Care Debate on Public Discourse blog. He describes the Democratic proposal as one focused on expanding availability of health insurance through government programs, which they argue will reduce costs through bringing greater uniformity to the healthcare delivery system. Republicans counter that access to healthcare can be enhanced by lowering costs through freeing the healthcare industry from costly compliance with unnecessary government regulation and mandates. “In other words, the left argues that experts know how to produce efficiency and that centralized control is the best way to empower experts, while the right argues that markets best discover paths to efficiency and that consumer choice and competition offer the best operating strategies for markets. That difference is the essence of the health-care debate.”

He expresses great concern that a government-run program of “one size fits all” will deny care to the disabled. “Centralized management of the health-care sector inevitably invites an explicitly utilitarian approach to comparing the worth of different people’s lives as a matter of public policy. Deciding what treatments to cover for which patients involves the government’s determining whose lives are worth living and whose are not. Princeton’s Peter Singer, an unabashed advocate of such public rationing, explained in the New York Times a few years ago that such an approach would, for one thing, require the government to value the lives of the disabled less than those of everyone else—a quadriplegic, for instance, should be valued at roughly half the worth of a healthy active person.”

In this way, the cure for the current inequities seems the creation of even more serious disregard for the innate dignity and equality of all human beings.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.