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Bill the Barbarian

By       Message Pamela Hennessy     Permalink
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I've never been a huge fan of Bill Maher. Conversely, I've never truly disliked him, either. Until now.

Maher is the host of a weekly talk-show that airs on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher. In each episode, Maher makes commentary of the news of the day and has a panel of guests who are given the opportunity to add their two cents to the discussion. As far as format is concerned, it's atypical and certainly interesting.

On his July 24, 2009 episode of Real Time, Maher hosted political candidate Anthony Woods, security consultant Susan Eisenhower, writer John Heileman, and columnist Matt Tabbai.

After chewing over the Gates versus Cambridge Police Department fray and the topic of political division in the United States, Maher's fancy turned to health care and, in particular, the now hotly debated legislation championed by President Barack Obama.

Eisenhower took a moment to express her concerns over the aging population and the very real dangers of a health care system breakdown when (what she called) an already distorted system becomes ever more distorted.

After considering her remarks, Maher offered up the suggestion that people on their "last leg" might not be the people we should be taking care of.

Maher asserted that some of us may wish to refuse care (or, perhaps, "take one for the team" is what he meant) so that financial ruin doesn't befall the United States.

An extremely uncomfortable groan could be heard, rising from a few of his audience members and his panel of guests appeared clearly dumbstruck for at least a moment.

Did he just say what I think he just said?

What Maher's comments toy with is precisely what opponents of a government-sanctioned health care delivery system are fearing and warning against. Care rationing on a large-scale, pick-and-choose methodology.

Firstly, let's try to define that last leg of Maher's.

Does Maher speak of people in the throes of a terminal illness who have been given less than a year to live? That wouldn't be very good thinking. I know a woman who was given less than three months to live and didn't lose her battle until more than six years later. Terminal diagnoses don't always equal a good reason to give up the fight and they're certainly no reason to deny someone a therapy that might help them get a little more time out of living.

Perhaps, Maher is speaking about people who have lost their cognitive capacity and will never again regain the ability to work, pay taxes or contribute to the local community as they did previously. Should we abandon total-care patients? What if that's not what they want? What have they done to anyone?

Did Maher mean the elderly? If so, this hardly seems fair to me. Our elders have paid far more, and for far longer, into this broken system of entitlement we live with. The prospects of having to take a little back from what you've put in might be a bit unattractive to most. Yet, I've always been told it was the reason I put in in the first place. Shouldn't our elders expect to be treated as full persons and full citizens even if they've become dependent on others for help in living? Isn't anything less a bit barbaric and a bit unbecoming of a free society?

To be fair, Maher did toss a number out there. Six months.

Before you go telling yourself that this is a fair and considerate amount of time, let me tell why I think it is not.

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Pamela F. Hennessy is a marketing and media professional from Clearwater, Florida who has been active in the campaign to protect the rights of vulnerable people since 2002.

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