In his July 15 New York Times op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks cites a recent article in The New Republic by Hastings Center cofounder Daniel Callahan and Hastings Center board member and retired Yale surgeon Sherwin Nuland in which they call for a radical reinvention of the American medical system – and new ways of thinking about living, aging, and dying.
Brooks maintains that health care costs are a driving force behind the current U.S. fiscal crisis and that American society’s inability to deal with aging and death is a root cause. “This fiscal crisis is about many things,” he writes, “but one of them is our inability to face death – our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy to extend life for a few more sickly months.”
Brooks notes Callahan and Nuland in stating that unbridled spending has resulted in neither an end to disease nor a greater quality of life for the aged. “They point out that more than a generation after Richard Nixon declared the ‘War on Cancer’ in 1971, we remain far from a cure,” Brooks writes. “Despite recent gains, there is no cure on the horizon for heart disease or stroke. A panel at the National Institutes of Health recently concluded that little progress had been made toward finding ways to delay Alzheimer’s disease.”
Brooks also acknowledges that Callahan has long called for adopting a new attitude towards health care – and ultimately death. “For years, [he] has been writing about the social solidarity model – in which death is accepted as a normal part of the human condition and caring is emphasized as much as curing.”