In Taming the Beloved Beast, esteemed medical ethicist Daniel Callahan confronts this dilemma head-on. He argues that we can't escape it by organizational changes alone. Nothing less than a fundamental transformation of our thinking about health care is needed to achieve lasting and economically sustainable reform. The technology bubble, he contends, is beginning to burst.
Callahan weighs the ethical arguments for and against limiting the use of medical technologies, and he argues that reining in health care costs requires us to change entrenched values about progress and technological innovation. Taming the Beloved Beast shows that the cost crisis is as great as that of the uninsured. Only a government-regulated universal health care system can offer the hope of managing technology and making it affordable for all.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
Originally published in 1993 by Simon and Schuster.
The contributors raise profound questions about the role of the state or employers in trying to change health-related behavior, about the actual health and economic benefits of even trying, and about the freedom and responsibility of those of us who, as citizens, will be the target of such efforts. They ask, for instance, whether we are all equally free to live healthy lives or whether social and economic conditions make a difference. Do disease prevention programs actually save money, as is commonly argued? What is the moral legitimacy of using economic and other incentives to change people's behavior, especially when (as with HMOs) the goal is to control costs?
One key issue explored throughout the book is the fundamental ambivalence of traditionally libertarian Americans about health promotion programs: we like the idea of good health, but we do not want government or others posing threats to our personal lifestyle choices. The contributors argue that such programs will continue to prove less than wholly successful without a fuller examination of their place in our national values.