April 4, 2007 8:34PM

Dueling Book Titles on Health Care

Shannon Brownlee writes in the New York Times,

Sure, aggressive treatment is reducing mortality and improving the quality of life for some patients. Sometimes it even cures. But for many others, the cancer machine offers only marginal benefits at best, and providers push screening and aggressive treatment in part because they have nothing else to give, but also because it’s profitable. How much of the money we spend on unnecessary or futile cancer treatment might be put to better use searching for real advances?

Her forthcoming book is titled, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Americans Sicker and Poorer. Meanwhile, Jonathan Cohn writes

Every day, millions of hard‐​working people struggle to find affordable medical treatment for themselves and their families — unable to pay for prescription drugs and regular check‐​ups, let alone for hospital visits. Some of these people end up losing money. Others end up losing something more valuable: Their health or even their lives.

His book title is Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis – and the People Who Pay the Price.

Europeans probably will love Cohn’s book, which apparently will reinforce their impression that Americans fall down dead in the streets every day because we don’t have enough socialized medicine. Brownlee’s book also apparently will take an anti‐​capitalist slant, blaming evil doctors and hospitals for overtreating patients.

The moral of the story is that whether you are being overtreated or undertreated, it’s the fault of the evil capitalist system. Still, if Cohn and/​or Brownlee want to campaign on a platform of “Your health care stinks. It’s time to replace your health insurance and your doctor with a government programm,” I think they may run into opposition.