Stop Calling Sick People 'Consumers'
Market-based health care is sickening, Paul Krugman argues
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2011 1:28 PM CDT
Doctors don't examine 'customers'; they examine patients.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Congressional Republicans took aim at the advisory board designed to reduce Medicare costs this week, arguing that what we really need is to make government health care “more responsive to consumer choice.” Which left Paul Krugman with one question: “How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as ‘consumers’?” he asks in the New York Times. We’re talking about receiving care like it’s no different than buying a car. “What has gone wrong with us?”

This is a field in which life-or-death decisions need to be made every day—decisions that require expertise patients lack, and that sometimes must be made while they’re incapacitated or in the midst of an emergency, “with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping.” That “consumer-based” medicine has failed everywhere it’s been tried—including here—is almost beside the point. This is about ethics, Krugman says. “The idea that all this can be reduced to money is, well, sickening.”