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By Michael H. Brown

Any health-care bill that rations medical attention based on a person's age or wellness or wealth or that funds abortion would be evil, while any claims that such a bill would do so if it would not would be equally nefarious.

It is a time when we must be fair and even-minded. The enemy has created a fog of anger and confusion and even absurdity around current politics.

Properly implemented, a health-care bill that allows all Americans to be treated for serious disease would be "pro-life." Is it Christian to deny a person?

But there is the issue of "rationing" -- and deeper than that, the idea that a price would be put on life.

The greatest touchstone of fear in the controversies over healthcare has been whether the elderly or terminally ill would be shortchanged expensive treatments and thus given a shove toward the grave.

This is what is propelling much of the anger (when politics, insurance lobbyists, medical interests, and race are not factors): Folks are simply concerned that one day -- and perhaps soon -- they will be marginalized.

Translation: the concern (and it is a legitimate one) is that government will in the future create a system that classifies certain members of society as expendable and not worth the health care it would afford the more fit, wealthier, or young. In a way, this is euthanasia.

Thankfully, the president, thus far, has not moved in this direction. He also claims abortion will not be federally funded under health care.

But fears were sparked when there were even hints of evaluation based on viability and when he made remarks such as one in which he said we needed to hold a conversation over whether a terminally-ill cancer patient should be given, for example, a hip replacement.

On the surface, it seems very rational -- pragmatic. But it is a slippery slope that reminds us we must simply and always help each person in all ways reach the fullness of years (letting God judge when it is our time). This goes, of course, for the unborn especially.

The trend to putting a price on life (called "risk assessment") is hardly new to government, and is neither Democrat nor Republican. It is simply heartless. As a reporter, I once discovered that the New York State Health Department was discussing a formula for deciding which toxic-contamination problems the state should spend money correcting and which they should not based on how many people would be saved -- and how much each person was worth.

I wrote an article about it for New York Magazine.

It should have caused an outrage. That was back in 1980.

It was greeted by silence.

Entitled, "The Benefit of Reducing Risk," the incredible report from Albany contained six empirical estimates of what life means financially to a society -- figures culled in large part from other government literature (including at the federal level).

Let me repeat: this was 1980. Actually, the report was issued the year before my article. "Estimates range from $49,226 to $1 million with most values between $200,000 and $300,000," it said coldly. "These estimates will be used later to describe the benefit of reducing the risk of death."

Humans were worth as little as $49,226 (in 1979 dollars, which today would be $146,017), the state, which otherwise did an excellent job protecting humans, was implying. The average person would be at $250,000, or what is now $741,566.

It should chill us all that for more than a quarter of a century American government -- or at least its scientists -- has been thinking this way.

Again, there is no indication of any of this in President Obama's plan, and there should be no false claims that it is. Indeed, a good health-care system that includes those who currently cannot get proper care (there are millions of these) would save lives. It is evil for our society to allow the wealthy better care and longer lives.

That too is putting a price on life.

But we must be vigilant.

Incredibly enough, the report -- out of liberal Albany (where Roe v. Wade first got its big push) -- based the value of one's life on an individual's present "production." Here was what it looked like mathematically: B=(r1/70)xv where B stood for per capita benefit in dollars a year, v for economic value of saving the life, r1 the lifetime cancer risk of contamination for a person, and 70 average life expectancy.

A second formula was: r1=.95 C X V X r, where C was the amount of contamination and for example r the lifetime risk of ingesting polluted water.

A weakness of the methodology, admitted the New York State report, was that it would "undervalue lives of housewives, elderly, unemployed, and underemployed."

The researchers fashioned such calculations based on a person's income, productivity, and what it would cost to treat the ailment.

They were going to base decisions on whether to clean up toxic chemicals based on the "worth" of potentially affected individuals!

This is the danger of a health-care system if the government becomes sole source of funding (although insurance companies do the same thing, and doctors, who somehow escape the current health-care controversy, also silently make similar calculations).

And so, without vigilance, can it be a danger with health care. We will wait for the actual final bill before rendering snap judgment.

From this, we must stay away.

Let not science dictate life.

It is not the politicians who are doing it so much as the researchers.

Most of them do not believe in God, and those who don't should have no role in a health debate.

Ask God, Who says every life is priceless.

[resources: Michael H. Brown, retreat Minnesota and Retreat and Mass in New Jersey; Arizona soon to be announced]

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