Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was mocked for claiming that the Affordable Care Act, popularly called Obamacare, provided for government "death panels" that determine who receives and who will be denied healthcare.
She was right then, and it’s about to go way beyond Obamacare now.
When President Trump first announced "Operation Warp Speed," designed to cut through regulatory red tape and rush a COVID-19 vaccine to the public, mainstream news outlets scoffed at the idea.
They also assumed that when a vaccine eventually reached the market, the most vulnerable of the population would be among the first to be offered it — the elderly and those with pre-existing health concerns.
Then over the summer Melinda Gates, wife of big-tech billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, turned it into a political football in a call for social justice.
During a virtual Forbes summit held in June, she suggested that after taking care of frontline workers, "in the United States, it’s going to be Black people who really should get it first and many indigenous people, as well as people with underlying symptoms, and then elderly people."
No one paid much attention to her remarks.
After all, everyone believed a vaccine was still years into the future.
But this month, when one company after another announced the approval of an effective COVID vaccine, Harald Schmidt, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, appeared to pick up on the idea of making delivery a social justice project.
He agreed that frontline workers should be first in line, followed by minorities, in an effort to "level the field," according to The New York Times.
"Older populations are whiter," Schmidt said. "Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer. Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit."
Harvard’s School of Public Health infectious-disease epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch was quoted in the same article, arguing that teachers shouldn’t be considered "essential workers"entitled to an early spot in liner, because, in part, most were white.
"Teachers have middle-class salaries, are very often white, and they have college degrees," he said. "Of course they should be treated better, but they are not among the most mistreated of workers."
The Times article quoted a third expert, Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, who countered that educators are "essential" notwithstanding their whiteness, because minorities are the ones that benefit most from them.
"When you talk about disproportionate impact and you’re concerned about people getting back into the labor force, many are mothers, and they will have a harder time if their children don’t have a reliable place to go," Gould said.
"And if you think generally about people who have jobs where they can’t telework, they are disproportionately Black and brown. They’ll have more of a challenge when child care is an issue," she added.
The Hippocratic Oath that every physician takes includes the promise to "abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm," often phrased as "first do no harm."
It would logically follow that in those instances where “intentional harm” can’t be avoided, the medical community should take the course that results in the least amount of harm — the fewest number of deaths.
Therefore, if the elderly are more likely than others to die from the disease, they should be among the first vaccinated. But I’m not an expert in medical ethics like Harald Schmidt, who wants to allow more old white people to die to level the field.
However, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is an expert in that particular field. In fact, he chairs the University of Pennsylvania’s department of medical ethics where Schmidt is associated.
Six years ago, long before anyone had imagined a modern global pandemic, he questioned "whether our consumption is worth our contribution" in old age, and argued that life after 75 wasn’t worth living.
Emanuel’s brother is Rahm Emanuel who, as chief of staff in the Obama administration, once said "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."
One would be hard-pressed to find a crisis more serious than a global pandemic.
Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden appointed Ezekiel Emanuel to serve on his COVID-19 Advisory Board, which is looking more like it may be another one of those death panels Sarah Palin warned us about.
"May you live in interesting times" has been called an ancient Chinese curse.
The next four years will prove to be very interesting times.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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