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'Catastrophic Legislation'

July 28, 1987

The catastrophic health-care legislation that is so derided by Lamm is necessary and long overdue. It should be seen in conjunction with several other factors Gov. Lamm has apparently not considered. This legislation does not mean just "giving heart transplants to 75-year-old former smokers" while ignoring the needs of children; it means preventing financial ruin for many middle-class families hit with unexpected health disasters.

Would making homeless paupers of otherwise hard-working people save the taxpayers money? High-technology medicine, it is true, is saving older people from otherwise fatal illnesses. It is also allowing infants with serious birth defects to survive while causing emotional and financial tragedies for their parents and complicated ethical dilemmas for their doctors and nurses. Many of these children may not become productive citizens of the future. Is our health-care dollar better spent on them at the expense of the elderly who have already given their energies and productive years to their country?

Furthermore, many of the elderly will not be "comatose, vegetative people existing on life-support systems" in "Medicare warehouses," but seniors with the usual problems of aging who will only need personal assistance and supervision with activities of daily living and protection from financial devastation. Lamm was once quoted as saying that the elderly have a duty to die. Unhooking those life-support machines on obviously terminal patients is one thing, but what else does he propose? Legislating the use of fatal injections on the elderly to decrease their overabundant numbers?

The catastrophe is not just those 10,000 people on life-support systems, or the "chronic needs of the elderly" or the "acute needs of the young," it is in the lack of a comprehensive, organized health-care system that covers everyone, and in the allocation of financial resources in a way that demonstrates caring and compassion for the value of all human life.

NANCY AWEIMRINE

Anaheim

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