Freedom and other necessities for prosperity (such as the rule of law, absence of taxation, and so forth) have been in decline in the US over the past decade. The specific proximate causes for the legislation and social changes that brought this decline don't really matter all that much - there is always some sequence of events that politicians and populace can use as justification and cover to further destroy all the qualities that once made their society great.
Interestingly, the field of medicine has escaped lightly in this time of rapidly declining freedoms. Perhaps this was in part because medical research and development is already hopelessly shackled and wedded to the control of central bureaucrats - innovation is already crushed to a fraction of what it might otherwise be.
Just because something is bad doesn't mean it can't become worse, of course. The present scaremongering over the economy is a grand opportunity for political opportunists to manipulate the system in ways far beyond the pale. Great leaps and bounds are taken down the slope of knives to the natural end of any government. It's only a matter of time before medicine and scientific research is further harmed. Take this for example, in reference to the "stimulus" bill presently being enacted:
Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.
The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept "hopeless diagnoses" and "forgo experimental treatments," and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.
Daschle says health-care reform "will not be pain free." Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.
I don't think I need to comment on the intent, beyond noting that it is unusually honest. This approach has been underway in Europe for some time now: see for example, the "fair innings" philosophy.
The fair innings argument (FIA) is frequently put forward as a justification for denying elderly patients treatment when they are in competition with younger patients and resources are scarce.
The whole debate has to be put in context, however. This is related to the operation of the universal health care system in the UK, a system that has long been in the doleful steady state of all such socialist, centralized systems: waste, terrible services, and - most importantly - rationing. Every taxpayer involuntarily funding this behemoth feels that they own a piece of it, and everyone has that tug on their human nature urging them to make sure that no-one gets more than they do. It's ugly, and it's why socialism fails. Along the way to failure, however, it produces dangerous ideas, such as "human beings have a fixed length of life, after which they should be cut off and left to die."
All rapid legislation turns into a wish-list for those closest to power: the faster it is enacted, the greater the scale of corruption, and the more you can be sure that your interests are being directly harmed. The legislation discussed above is a good example of the way in which the politics of central control turn what would be a golden opportunity for a free market in healthcare into the modern equivalent of putting the old people out into the snow.
Don’t be afraid of [healthcare]; it’s actually the leading industry. The demands of healthcare are going to pull all other industries forward. Of course they require new technologies in steel and heavy industry and as well as delivery systems. I think they should be looked at positively. Again I say if this were a privatized system, we would all say "gee it’s wonderful. All these people want more health care, this industry is thriving". Let me put one other analogy. Suppose we made cars a government entitlement. Instead of cheering when auto production went up, we’d say, "Oh my God, we can’t afford this!". How you finance it may greatly affect the psychology and actually the freedom of the economy to take advantage of these new opportunities.
At the end of the road ahead there will be ruins. We can hope that the decline of the US and failure of its current political system is peaceful and rapid, such that growth and honest toil to create prosperity can begin again as soon as possible. It's an unpleasant thing to say for one who came to America with high hopes, but history ever repeats itself, and the downward slope has taken a steeper turn.
Economic ignorance is the death of cultures; it is presently eating away at the US, and is sadly most advanced in medicine and medical research. People who favor equality and envy over wealth and progress are, unfortunately, usually comparatively wealthy themselves and thus largely insulated from the short-term consequences of their ignorance. These dangerous philistines will have to decide in the years ahead whether their dearly-held positions are worth losing their lives to, not to mention the lives of everyone they manage to kill - at the rate of 100,000 with each and every day of delay on the way to working anti-aging technologies.