Ok, I was going to write about how Dan Andrews is responsible for security guards not being up to the job in Melbourne and ask why the federal government isn’t responsible for security guards committing crimes on Manus or Nauru. Or why the federal government isn’t even responsible for crimes committed by its ministers. But then the whole gas thing happened and I decided that in the interest of balance I should write about what a disappointment Albanese is as Opposition leader, and that he’s neither leading nor mounting an opposition… government follower would be a more appropriate title.
But more on those at some future date. I realised after reading the following quote from the University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Duncan Maskell, I’d just have to address this because it seemed so reasonable and measured:
“We have to look at this as an overall picture. My personal view is there should be some form of sensible, public health, QALY*-based analysis done and tough calls made. It boils down to a basic but very hard moral philosophy: What is the value of a 90-year-old’s life versus the value of the continuing livelihood and happiness of a 25-year-old?’’
*QALY The quality-adjusted life year or quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) is a generic measure of disease burden, including both the quality and the quantity of life lived. It is used in economic evaluation to assess the value of medical interventions. One QALY equates to one year in perfect health. QALY scores range from 1 (perfect health) to 0 (dead) QALYs can be used to inform personal decisions, to evaluate programs, and to set priorities for future programs
There was just something about it that I found both rational and disturbing at the same time. I realised that it was a reframing of the Trolley Problem where you’re asked if you’d kill one person to save five, but I sensed that it was something more than that. . And then it just hit me. It was the FRAMING of the hypothetical.
There was so much that was loaded in that single question that it’s hard to know where to start but let’s begin with the implicit assumption that the 90 year old was just a waste of space. I mean if the question was something like: “Why should we prevent Eric from going to his job at KFC and partying on weekends simply to keep David Attenborough alive?” Or substitute Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she was 87 and pretty much there.
And what if the twenty five year old wasn’t happy anyway? Yes, I do have a pretty good understanding of how not having enough money can really affect your happiness, but I’m suggesting that there’s an assumption that if the poor young person can just go back to their dishwashing job that they’ll be happy when some of them may be a lot happier on JobKeeper…
Or what if we frame it in terms of some of our sporting heroes? Why should some poor AFL/NRL player have a shortened season and a lack of opportunity to strut their stuff at a nightclub just so some old person can live?
Yep, the framing makes a big difference.
Once you start accepting the idea that it’s reasonable to start trading off the sad, old 90 year old in order to enable the happiness of the young it’s the old slippery slope. Why stop at ninety? If you think of how much the over 80s cost in terms of health care, it should be a simple matter to round them all up and put them in the same aged care facility with no access to any medications apart from those which allow a smooth painless transition to that place where they’re not costing anyone’s happiness. Now, I’m not advocating that we murder them off; I’m just suggesting that after a few weeks hanging around with other old people they’d surely realise that their time was up and that they’d be happy to go for the greater good. Of course, if they insist on being selfish and living… Well, there’s always methods to make people see reason…
And with the money we save we could afford to give even greater tax cuts to those having a go.
Yes, it’s all in how you frame it. Apparently it’s fine to suggest that we can’t afford any economic slowdown just to keep old people alive. After all, they’ve had a pretty good innings so they can just shut up and accept that COVID-19 will kill a few of them.
Yes, that seems to be an acceptable way to treat the elderly if you’re a politician or an economist or someone who has a media gig…
But if you should suggest touching their franking credits, you’re some sort of monster!
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