I saw two stories last week that had diametrically opposed messages.
The first was pro-life in the broadest sense of the word, a breakthrough against cancer via a new tumor-targeted genetic medicine, Rexin-G, that produced clinical remissions in late-stage cases of three chemotherapy-resistant, otherwise intractable cancers --- prostate cancer, metastatic osteosarcoma, and pancreas cancer.
The second, fundamentally anti-life, was a video of a speech delivered by Robert B. Reich on health care reform at the University of California at Berkeley on September 26, 2007.
Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and more recently a member of President-elect Obama's transition advisory board and an economic adviser to President Obama, told the Berkeley audience what a candidate for President of the United States would say if he was honest about health care reform.
"This is what the truth is," explained former Harvard professor Reich, "what candidates should say if we were in the kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship, and they were educated in terms of what the issues were, and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what a candidate was telling them."
Reich then plays the role of that straight-talking presidential candidate:
Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you and I would like to be president … Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. And that's true, and what I'm going to do is I am going to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people.
But that means you, particularly you young people, particularly you young healthy people, you're going to have to pay more (scattered applause). Thank you, and by the way, we are going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of weeks. It's too expensive, so we're going to let you die (heavier applause).
Also, I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid --- we already have a lot of bargaining leverage --- to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. But that means less innovation, and less products and less new drugs on the market, which means you are probably going to live not much longer than your parents (scattered applause). Thank you.
California Newswire provided a profile of one of the aforementioned cancer cases:
Remarkably, a Catholic priest who was previously bedridden and in withering pain, suffering from end-stage prostate cancer that had spread to his bones, received successive courses of Rexin-G, during which time the bone pain was relieved, the PSA tumor markers fell, the bone tumors stopped growing, and even the previously inoperable primary tumor disappeared on follow-up CT scans. As the priest's bones began to heal and strengthen, he arose from his bed and is currently saying daily Mass and delivering lectures in the seminary.
What is even more remarkable is that this revered man of the cloth was over 90-years-old at the time of his treatment and remission.
For guys like Reich, that sounds like a bad outcome --- too budget-busting, too innovative. Too much life.