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Benefits of the “Fury of American Medicine.”

I do not consider myself a right-wing healthcare fear-monger.  But if I were, this study would be worthy of amplification.

As reported concisely in the NY Times, from the journal Demography (not previously known to me), population researchers reported that even though elderly Americans have more medical problems than their peers in Britain, once they make it to 70, older Americans live longer.

Why would this be?

Is it because Americans who reach 70 are “heartier” than Britons, as Columbia University PhD (but now on leave and working at HHS), Sherry Giled says.

Or, is better survival of the American elderly one of the benefits of the “fury of American medicine?”

Masters of the obvious, as well as American voters seem to have sided with the lead author, Dr James P Smith who said,

…higher spending in the United States was a stronger explanation. For example, the Netherlands, he said, had a philosophy of “Let nature take its course.”

“There was a backlash,” Mr. Smith said, “and the state began spending a lot more money on health care at older ages. Survival rates went up in the last five years or so. They spent the money and they did extend life spans.”

Others may argue that an extra few years in the late innings of life might not be worth the expensive and often invasive therapy required.  Surely this is true in obvious cases of hopeless runs of cancer chemotherapy, or defibrillator implantation in end-stage heart disease, but the decisions to treat an elderly patient is rarely this clear-cut. And the value of added years would–in most cases–be answered differently at age 75 than 35.

So far, the American electorate fancies the idea that patients and doctors, not government, choose the best course of medical therapy.


One reply on “Benefits of the “Fury of American Medicine.””

Just the other day I ran into an elderly lady that I have known for almost my entire life. She was telling me that she had had some health issues over the past year. Her heart had been down to 15% and a bout with cancer. In short this lady made a big influence on me during my youth and is in part responsible for the person I am today. I am quite sure that during her 87 years she has had similar effect on others, and thanks to medical intervention, she can continue to do the same today.

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