Communications Department

Advisory Memo Regarding New York Times Magazine Article by Peter Singer

Jul 23, 2009 | 2009 Press Releases

Advisory Memo

To:                 Journalists & Interested Parties

From:           Burke Balch, J.D., Director, NRLC Powell Center for Medical Ethics

Re:                 Health Care Without Rationing

In a 5,000 word missive in the New York Times Magazine July 19, 2009, Princeton University Bioethics Professor Peter Singer openly advocated what many have feared – that under health care “reform,” lifesaving medical treatment be rationed so as to deny it to those deemed to have too poor a “quality of life.”  
He makes it clear that society should be more willing to withhold treatment from those who are old and those with disabilities. “The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities,” he writes. “[S]aving one teenager is equivalent to saving 14 85-year-olds.” Similarly, “If most would . . .choose 6 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, but have difficulty deciding between 5 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, then they are, in effect, assessing life with quadriplegia as half as good as nondisabled life.”
The premise of Singer’s article is the conventional wisdom that America cannot afford increasing health care costs. But, as documented on the National Right to Life Committee website at, we as a society are spending more on health care because we CAN – because productivity increases over time have reduced the resources we need for food, clothing and shelter, freeing up more of our budgets to go toward saving our lives and improving our health.
A webinar presentation is available at: that provides a thorough explanation of how we can afford and assure health care for all without rationing.
NRLC’s Balch is available for comment on the Singer piece as well as why the United States can afford health care without the need for rationing. To arrange an interview, contact the NRLC Communications Department above.