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Breast or Death Panels


A scientific panel last month said mammograms don’t adequately reduce breastcancer mortality, and thus can be performed less often than once thought. Some have skewered the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force as a “death panel” tasked with saving government money at the cost of women’s lives, and even inserted the controversy into the ongoing debate regarding health-care reform.

She didn’t use the phrase “death panel,” but letter writer Renee Rowlette, of Delta, suggested this recommendation may be a calling card of “government-run health care” [see “Test Reductions a Taste of Socialized Medicine?” Dec. 2].

“Save money by not recommending tests, and if we die, it’s just one less person they have to take care of,” Rowlette wrote.

Online commenter ChiTown urged Rowlette to see the recommendation as a symptom of the current system. “It’s not the way you think that government health care will go, but where we are now in your imperfect system,” ChiTown wrote.

Rant Control thinks the recommendation was important for any health-care system, present or future. We should encourage scientists to boldly identify weaknesses in our system. The panel found that 1,904 women in their 40s must receive yearly mammograms for a decade for the test to save just one life. We can and must do better. We won’t do better, however, without admitting how poorly we are doing now.

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