Many years ago I paid the Big Apple a visit for a weekend, staying at the apartment of an uncle who spent the weekends in the country. It was an amazingly, even frighteningly, neat apartment. For some reason that Sunday morning, in the dining room, curtains closed to avoid sun damage to the antiques, I remember reading a lengthy article in the Sunday New York Times.

A doctor wrote it about his own father. It was about the end-of-life indignities and useless and seemingly unending expensive tests, the fitful flurry of prodigal procedures, and the futile activities. The motive, in the writer's opinion, is eagerness to get as much spent as possible before the patient expired.

It was a gripping tale, particularly as the son was a doctor himself, and still was unable to stem the tide of pre-last rite spending. Curious to read an article on Mahalanobis today, so little different from that of twenty, maybe even thirty, years ago.

Greg Rehmke adds:

This may not be the same article, but is probably a similar story and followed from the same poor incentives of government-regulated, third-party payer heath care.

I remember the article because health care reform was the national high school debate topic and we reprinted this article in our monthly publication for high school debate clubs.


Making a Living Off the Dying


It has been more than a year since my father died, and I have come to believe that the circumstances of his death demonstrate much of what is wrong with our medical system.

As I grew up, I heard so much about what a good and gentle physician my father was that at first I ran from the idea of becoming a physician myself. But at 35, I was well along in my own medical career and with pride brought him to Britain to hear me deliver a paper. He had trained there and wanted to find out what had become of his classmates. He seemed to lose some vitality when he heard they were all dead. In perfect health his whole life, he began to complain of back pain. … 


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