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    What’s the cost of a human life?

    On healthcare, competing economic priorities in the United States

     

    According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. healthcare spending grew 5.3% in 2014—reaching $3 trillion or $9,523 per person. This amounts to 17.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

    The expenditures for medical care in our country are “unsustainable,” says the Dallas Morning News, whereas The New York Times, in an editorial entitled “Why we must ration healthcare,” declares the monetary valuation of human life to be immoral. Everybody says we spend too much on healthcare, so they must be right. Right?

    Really? What is the right number? 10%? 15%?

    What if I claimed that, at 17.5%, we were spending too little to care for grandma, for a baby born prematurely, or for a renal transplant in a 60 year-old who would be declared “too old” to have the operation in many other countries?

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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