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Sham Health Care Reforms: The Ethics of Health Policy Placebos

When Oct 13, 2008
from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library
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The public clamor for universal coverage and health care cost containment has increased the pressure for health care reform.  In response, most leading politicians have offered reform options that avoid antagonizing the powerful health insurance and drug industries.  Unfortunately, most of these proposals are virtual duplicates of reforms that have been tried, and failed in the past.  In contrast, there is strong evidence that a single payer national health insurance program could simultaneously expand coverage and control costs.  However, such fundamental reform would virtually eliminate private health insurance firms and limit the profits of drug companies—rendering this option politically risky.   

In clinical medicine, when effective therapies are available, it is ethically unacceptable to continue prescribing treatments that are known to be useless.  This presentation will argue that health policy should be held to a similar ethical standard, and that failed reforms should not be reprised because of political expediency.

David U. Himmelstein, M.D.

Photo on event pageAssociate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Co-Founder of Physicians for a National Health Program

David U. Himmelstein, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and practices primary care internal medicine and serves as Chief of the Division of Social and Community Medicine at Cambridge Hospital.  He graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, completed a medical residency at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, and a fellowship in General Internal Medicine at Harvard.  His research focuses on access to medical care, quality of care in for-profit settings, medical bankruptcy, the administrative costs of medical care, and the feasibility of national health insurance.  He has authored or co-authored more than 100 journal articles and three books.  He co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program.