Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Universal Care: What’s In Your Mind?

I doubt the compassionate souls who want health care to be simultaneously comprehensive, inexpensive and community rated (to be fair to everyone) intend to force a debate on the proper relationship between the individual and the state, but this is what we are going to get.

Earlier this week Presidential candidate John Edwards raises eyebrows with comments about mandatory preventive care, and today British conservative party leader David Cameron sets off yipping by proposing withholding care for those living inappropriate lifestyles. No matter how you glitter up the packaging the fact remains, if you turn responsibility for your body over to the government you no longer have control over your body. Oh yeah, and history teaches that what is proclaimed to be good for the community is not necessarily good for the individual.

It is against this backdrop that the advances in understanding the brain need to be evaluated. TCS Daily has interesting article ostensibly about how medical science is getting much better at identifying neural predispositions to social pathology. It begins with recalling the killings at Virginia Tech then gets into what is now possible.

We Can Stop Mass Killings: I recently toured the University of Georgia's sparkling new Clinical and Cognitive Research Laboratory with its director, Dr. Brett Clementz. The lab has three multimillion dollar machines never before assembled under one roof and devoted solely to brain research. The fMRI machine enables researchers to tease out which brain tissues are active when the test subject performs specified tasks. The high-density electroencephalograph records electrical activity from 257 locations simultaneously. The magnetoencephalograph presents the subject with visual, auditory and somatosensory stimuli and "reads" the magnetic reaction from several brain locations at once. And the responses from both fMRI and MEG can be aligned by computers in a single visual presentation.

Suppose such a facility had produced studies of the brains of several dozen mass killers against which the Radford hospital psychiatrist who examined Seung Hui Cho could have matched. He most certainly never would have declared him no threat and sent him back to campus with a "recommendation" for out-patient treatment.

The point being that if it is in the interest of society (for the common good) to mandate every person be screened for disease, then there no reason not to screen for all potential behavior threats to the communal harmony. My operational definition of freedom is the ability to say no to the government without punishment. There are a whole lot of meek do-gooders who want to legitimize authoritarian control of health care and I’m sure they reflexively dismiss the idea that government can use health care as crowd control.