The marginalized-at-our-peril Peter Singer has a piece in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine arguing that rationing already exists in our current system and a better system is a matter of numbers. I agree wholeheartedly with the piece and just wanted to add one thing.
Spending my summer reading for my thesis leads me to apply it all over the place. Singer points out that we don’t recognize uninsured people who die after car accidents as victims of health care rationing. I see this as a narrative problem. We have a narrative about victims of health care rationing: a middle class person can have their life extended or health improved, but a socialized health system that sees him or her as just a number denies her or him the treatment. The truth is the vast majority of rationing victims look a lot more like the accident victims than our vision. We’ve built up this narrative through repeated exposure to heart-wrenching personal stories of the bad-socialized-medicine type. So when we talk about the victims of rationing, we aren’t actually talking about the majority of rationing victims. It’s more than a definitional problem, it’s a narrative problem. Our abstracted narrative of what the state of being of a rationing victim is has been distorted to serve a political interest – one that ends up protecting rich lives with a lot of money while refusing to save poor lives for a lot less money. Damn, there’s also a lot of Foucauldian biopower going on here too. Anyway, if you’ve been wondering what my thesis is about, it’s something like that.
And for audio entertainment, this was playing on Pandora while I was writing this post. Enjoy.