Put a band aid on it, Granny.
That is the message being sent by a new study from Lancet, the British medical journal, that says that 32 percent of elderly patients in the U.S. underwent surgeries in the last year of their lives.
Indeed, a doctor at the prestigious Mount Sinai School of Medicine says that this 32 percent figure is a “call to action” to reduce expensive operations and stays in intensive care units for older people.
But there's a problem. In a piece headlined “Cooking the Books on Grandma’s Health Care,” author and patients advocate Betsy McCaughey shows that the reserch is skewed. Maybe Grandma could benefit from something other than one of those red pills after all?
Don't be bamboozled: The Lancet investigators looked only at patients who died, making surgery appear unsuccessful. That's like saying Babe Ruth struck out 1,333 times so he must have been a poor ball player—even though he had a .342 lifetime batting average and 714 home runs. Investigators should have considered how all surgery patients fared, including those who recovered, returned home from the hospital and resumed active lives….
Studies conducted in California and Pennsylvania found different results from Lancet one:
Dr. Amber Barnato, lead author of the Pennsylvania study, explained that examining only the records of patients who died, as the Dartmouth and Lancet studies do, is Monday morning quarterbacking. Doctors often cannot tell when a patient is in the last year of life. When they can predict, they expend fewer resources.
Bad numbers can be fatal. You may recall, for example, that former OMB director Peter Orszag claimed that Medicare’s budget could be slashed by nearly a third without adverse effects. He cited a study that pulled the same stunt as the one in Lancet, examining only the records of patients who died, thereby guaranteeing that the medical treatments could be called useless.
We need to save money on entitlements, and Medicare is one of the biggest offenders against national solvency. Still, wouldn’t it be better to consider Paul Ryan’s phased-in voucher plan instead of just killing Gramps?