Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ted Kennedy's Brain

Here's a thoughtful post from Freakonomics. So, on first blush it would seem that the social cost of Ted Kennedy's treatment may be very high because it is crowding out resources from more routine medicine that may benefit more people. But I'm not sure this stands the test... unless you're a staunch republican (but, ironically, if you ARE a republican you have to honor and respect the Kennedys' right to choose to receive such treatments, even if they do bid up the cost). It's clear from the principle of "revealed preferences" that the private cost benefit to Mr. Kennedy (and his family) favors vigorous treatments. The implication of the article is that that treatment is the type of low-success-probability procedure that may tend to drive up costs for the rest of us. But, since Ted Kennedy is highly productive and employed in the service of the public, it is possible that extending his life and allowing him to continue is legacy of championing health care and other public-good initiatives like social insurance, his extensive treatments may still create a net gain to society. It's unlikely that this is entering the calclulus, but it is food for thought.

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