Dr Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, has received a mixed reception. A Congressman from Atlanta, Georgia, he was an orthopaedic surgeon and was an assistant professor at Emory University. He is currently chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Inside Higher Ed reported that “higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price” this week. “I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” said Lizbet Boroughs, of the Association of American Universities. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”
The American Medical Association also endorsed him immediately. “Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs,” the AMA declared.
However, Price is also a climate change sceptic, and a foe of abortion, Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research. His biggest responsibility, under Trump, will probably be dismantling Obamacare. He is “ a man intent on systematically weakening, if not demolishing, the nation’s health care safety net,” the New York Times declared in an editorial.
“He’s certainly not middle of the road on anything as far as I know,” says Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "He’s certainly thought about the issues intensely. He may well be a person who will try to shake things up."
California’s assisted suicide law came into effect on June 9. Betsy Davis, an artist with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, was one of the first to take advantage of the legislation. She drank a lethal cocktail on July 23, after a long party with close friends. I’m afraid that we missed the story at the time.
Reading her sister’s account of Betsy’s death, which is full of loving sorrow at her passing, I was struck by how quickly Californians started to ignore all the careful safeguards. It is clearly specified in the law that the person must “self-administer” the drug. But she was too weak to hold the cup and drink it quickly, so her friends held it for her. They may have broken the law.
People tend to think that a lethal barbiturate brings about death quickly. This wasn’t true in Betsy’s case – she lingered on for four hours. Given that the drug was a homemade cocktail of morphine, pentobarbital and chloral hydrate which smelled like paint, her friends were “lucky” that it worked. Some assisted suicide patients in Oregon have woken up to discover that their suicide has failed.
It wasn’t a good beginning for the law.
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