September 2, 2009

UK’s NHS ‘Liverpool Care Pathway’ Looks an Awful Lot Like a Death Panel From Here

NHS_LogoThere’s a reason Matt Drudge just got done celebrating an all-time record August traffic count. His visitors know that he constantly links to newsworthy stories they likely won’t find reported prominently in establishment U.S. media outlets, if they’re reported at all.

Such will likely be the case with a blockbuster story coming out of Great Britain tonight, courtesy of the U.K. Telegraph. It seems that there’s this treatment protocol called the “Liverpool Care Pathway.” Under the Pathway’s guidelines, according to the Telegraph, “Under the guidelines the decision to diagnose that a patient is close to death is made by the entire medical team treating them, including a senior doctor.”

Why, if I didn’t know any better, that sounds like a d-d-d-d-death panel, complete with top-down (“senior doctor”) supervision.

Here are just a few excerpts from Telegraph Medical Correspondent Kate Devlin’s must-read report. Especially note the chilling statistic in the second-last paragraph of the excerpt:

Sentenced to death on the NHS

Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors warn today.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away. But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn.

As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter states. It has been signed palliative care experts including Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London, Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, and four others.

“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.

“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients.”

…. (Dr. Hargreaves) added that some patients were being “wrongly” put on the pathway, which created a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that they would die.

….. “It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Patients who are allowed to become dehydrated and then become confused can be wrongly put on this pathway.”

In 2007-08 16.5 per cent of deaths in Britain came about after continuous deep sedation, according to researchers at the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, twice as many as in Belgium and the Netherlands.

“If they are sedated it is much harder to see that a patient is getting better,” Prof Millard said.

Based on the above 16.5% statistic, about 95,000 of the UK’s 574,700 deaths in 2007 “came after continuous deep sedation.” If the UK’s death rate after continuous deep sedation would have replicated Belgium and the Netherlands, about 47,000 fewer would have died under those circumstances. How many of them should still be alive today? The suggestion that the number is in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands, would appear to be not at all unreasonable.

So whaddaya think, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Associated Press, and Big 3 networks? In the midst of an attempt to impose a statist health care system on this country, isn’t the fact that one of the oldest statist health care systems in the world is more than likely systematically and prematurely offing thousands of patients a story? Or are you going to let Matt Drudge keep linking to the real news you ignore until you’re no longing just circling the drain, but actually in it?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

So Why WAS the Idaho Flyover Stopped After 42 Years, and Who Made the Call?

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 12:03 pm

Despite the Fox News headline on the video and the claims of the person interviewed, I don’t think there’s any direct proof of administration involvement in the cancellation of the God & Country Rally flyover in July.

But either administration intervention or a new culture in some parts of the military following perceptions, correct or not, of how the administration would have come down on the issue if consulted are about the only explanations as to why it occurred:

Really, what could possibly have caused the Pentagon to think that administration would support this decision?

A Government-Run Betting Monopoly Goes Broke

NYoffTrackBettingLogo

New York State’s Off-Track Betting Corp. (OTB) is filing for bankruptcy “as a municipality” under Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code “after four years of losses totaling $38 million.”

You read that right: A government-run gambling monopoly has gone broke, after losing money for years.

How was this seemingly impossible feat accomplished? There are clues in stories at Reuters and Bloomberg:

(Reuters) Despite taking more than $1 billion in bets every year, the OTB has been unable to cover its operating costs for years and has accrued liabilities of $220 million.

(Reuters) A complete shutdown of the OTB would cost more than $600 million, (OTB Head Meyer) Frucher told the news conference. “A shutdown is unthinkable,” he said.

(Bloomberg) Last year, the corporation paid winning betters $760.9 million, leaving it with $244.7 million. After providing $93.2 million to the horse racing industry, $20.2 million to local governments and $15.2 million to the state, the corporation was left with $116.1 million of revenue, or less than its $133.9 million of operating expenses.

(Reuters) New York State took control of the OTB from the city last July. In June, Paterson appointed Meyer Frucher head of the organization, which employs 40,000 people across the state.

(Reuters) Adding to the gloom are unfunded liabilities of more than $500 million, most of it related to employee retirement, health and other benefits.

(Bloomberg) The corporation’s biggest liabilities are unfunded payments to 1,366 workers’ pension and health plans, Frucher said. The workforce is represented by District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, whose leaders are cooperating with the plan, he said.

Some context: The Empire State’s “All Funds” budget for its 2009-2010 fiscal year is $121 billion. The state’s $15.2 million take from OTB is less than 0.013% of that. The budget of New York City, OTB’s primary municipal beneficiary, is about $60 billion (see Page 2 at this PDF link).

From here, it seems that OTB probably has hired too many people, paid the people they hired too much, provided overly generous benefits, couldn’t eliminate unprofitably outlets, and perhaps fell behind on technology and investment in the future. All in all, as a government operation, it has turned what should be a fairly simple-to-run money pot and into a money pit.

Allowing OTB to file for bankruptcy as a municipality would appear to be a gambit to get around the constraints imposed if a regular corporation files for Chapter 11; otherwise, why do it? Perhaps others have more insight on this, but I would not be surprised if OTB’s bankruptcy filing ends up stiffing general and other creditors in the name of preserving as much of workers’ accumulated unfunded benefits as possible. While their stories were relatively evenhanded, Reuters and Bloomberg should have explored how this will all work out, and didn’t. A “who wins, who loses” breakdown of the type the press frequently employs when a piece of tax legislation, especially a tax cut, comes along would have been quite useful — especially if they had compared Chapter 9 to Chapters 11 and 7.

So what will OTB be like after it emerges? These paragraphs from Bloomberg are not comforting (bolds are mine):

With updated technology, “We could go head to head with pornography and win,” Frucher said, referring to possibilities such as an around-the-clock horse-racing channel or virtual racing.

A reorganization plan, which must be approved by a federal bankruptcy court and state lawmakers, would trim the corporation’s workforce, reduce the number of betting parlors from 68 currently, and introduce technology that might eventually quadruple the $1 billion a year of bets now collected, Frucher said.

It would appear that Frucher is awkwardly expressing is a desire to introduce highly addictive and arguably predatory gambling formats accessible from the comfort of home. Even if the extra money materializes, why should we think that the state isn’t setting itself up for a long-term, four times as serious train wreck?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Mickey Rourke thanks God and Catholic faith for ‘second chance’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Rome:

Aug 25, 2009 / 10:44 am

Famed Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, who was at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week, told a Bosnian newspaper that he thanks God and his Catholic faith for giving him a “second chance” in life to overcome his addictions, which almost led him to commit suicide.

Speaking to the Bosnian daily “Avaz,” Rourke said, “God gave me a second chance in life and I thank Him.”

Rourke achieved fame in the 80s with action films and erotic thrillers. At the beginning of the 90s he left film for boxing and fell into heavy drug and alcohol addiction.

According to the newspaper, during the most difficult moments of his life, his psychiatrist and his priest were his best friends.

“When you fall people push you down even more. The world is full of materialism and envy. When you are famous and you fall, people don’t want you to come back. It is almost impossible to come back. It’s hard enough the first time, but the second time it’s like you don’t even exist …God gave me a second chance, the guy upstairs helped me out,” he said.

Several years ago Rourke began his return to the big screen and this year he won his first Golden Globe Award for the film “The Wrestler.” Rourke was also an Oscar favorite.

Now, he says, he doesn’t think about Hollywood much. “I don’t care about Hollywood and what the people of Hollywood think. I don’t think about how it works because I simply don’t care. ….”

Go here for the rest of the story.