Singer, Holdren and Rationing

I have now observed two of the country’s largest media organizations turn to the wisdom of Peter Singer in order to illuminate for readers or viewers the true lineaments of “rationing” in health care. This strikes me as bordering on bizarre. Perhaps it is simply brazen. More likely it is simply stupid.

These are the same sorts of institutions — those comprising the captaincy of the media industry — that would have us believe that phrases like “death panel” are simply beyond the pale of reason; excessive, extreme, demagogic rhetoric unfit for our Republic.

Now Professor Peter Singer of Princeton, as readers may know, has over the years made some striking remarks on the subject of rationing, which I take to mean the process of rational division of effort and
resources under conditions of scarcity. You may be scarce time, or money, or materials, or expertise; but in any case you know that all instances of your problem cannot be attended to equally. You must ration.

The Professor has, for instance, taken time to consider the horrifying rationing into which a man would be forced, in the circumstance of a raging fire that at once threatens (1) a kennel full of beloved dogs, (2) a clinic full of newborns, and (3) an orphanage full of children. Singer would save the dogs. The Professor has also considered the circumstance of a couple, having recently given birth to a disabled child, who must now face the rationing of their time, their resources, and their happiness, that will attend the care of a such a child. Singer believes the couple ought to be able to kill the child.

Thus the utilitarianism of Professor Peter Singer. Thus the form of justifiable rationing as it presents itself to his reasoning mind. And thus my puzzlement at why the media would call on this man to elucidate the thorny question of rationing in health care. The Professor thinks it is inevitable; that it must happen and it happens already. “Health care,” he says, “is a scarce resource, and all scarce resources are rationed in one way or another.” Singer objects to the current form of rationing we rely on, and believes he has thought out
a better way. His proposal is here.

Taking cognizance of the Professor’s views on rationing and the dignity of human life, it seems that the media has unthinkingly given Americans a good reason to embrace rhetoric as strident as “death
panels.” For Singer, a respected authority on bioethics, would make parents the death panel for disabled infants. Their tyranny over their child would be complete.

In a similar manner, consider the deranged cogitations of President Obama’s own science adviser. Here is a man who set pen to paper to disgorge opinions that make “death panels” look very mild indeed. I urge the reader to examine Mr. Holdren’s opinions in detail — even in light of his office’s exquisitely vague repudiation of those opinions — and reflect on whether a phrase like “death panels” is indeed intolerable hyperbole and scaremongering.

The sad and pulverizing fact is that the stench of death does cling to much of what passes for bioethics today; there is a great deal to fear in how modern medicine is developing its view of the dignity of human
life. The leaders of opinion in these fields betray abominable instincts and intuitions. They write like madmen of introducing contraceptives into the water supply and other depraved methods of “coercive fertility control.” They talk blithely of terrible things: “I would hope that the doctor would do something so the [disabled] child [doesn’t] live, and maybe say to the parents, ‘Unfortunately it died.’”

I’m sorry watchdogs of the media, but evoking the specter of death panels is hardly excessive rhetoric in light of the influence wielded by Messrs. Holdren and Singer. Would that it were excessive! Jefferson
apparently spoke for Americans across the ages when he said that we tremble for our country when we reflect that God is just. But the moral imagination of these men, on the evidence of their writings, is too monstrous to trust with almost anything; so monstrous, indeed, that it taints all who might rely on them for