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Mrs. Clinton Had Better Know Her Enemy


New York. -- Blanche of Castile had only to rule all of France from behind its throne, saving the kingdom that her son Louis very nearly bankrupted on his idiotic path to conquest and sainthood. Eleanor of Aquitaine married, successively, the kings of France and of England, rising above the monkishness of one and the infidelities of the other to bestride a good part of the 12th century with her influence and competence.

Neither of these earlier consorts would have understood or tolerated the indignities heaped on the wives of 20th-century American presidents. Nancy Reagan couldn't borrow a dress or to an astrologer without the nation sniggering. Barbara Bush had to sit there like a ninny saying nothing when everybody knew she favored abortion rights, despised assault weapons and terrorized the domestic lives of the Bush men. And now Hillary Rodham Clinton has been assigned to reform the nation's health-care system.

To the taunts of gnomes who cannot understand the usefulness of a wife who would publicly pretend to have a brain will soon be added the torrent of vilification that must surely fall on anybody who tries to steal the cow that is now being milked by the nation's health-care providers.

If she doesn't already know this she should pay attention to what has happened to one doctor who came up with the most original idea in years for containing medical cost. They just took away his medical license and banished him from his profession in all 50 states.

Now, to many sane Americans, sticking your head in the oven is a perfectly sensible alternative to dying in stages from a terminal illness, to the excruciating pain, discomfort and indignity of ending this earthly life in the clutches of the American system of medical care while your relatives look on in grief and despair, either at your suffering or at the dissipation of your estate.

Jack Kevorkian came up with the idea that dying people deserve something better than choosing between jumping off a bridge -- at great inconvenience to authorities who have to drag the river -- and paying a thousand dollars a day to have their bodies stuck full of life-prolonging tubes pumping stuff into them that nauseates them and makes their hair fall out.

For his troubles the state of Michigan earlier lifted his license and now some judge in California suspended his California one. Now, for helping 15 people voluntarily end their misery, he can't practice anywhere, and the Michigan authorities are doing their best to put him in jail.

I suppose there is a natural tendency for medical care professionals to be hostile to medically assisted suicide. And it may even have nothing to do with the fact that it is damned hard to figure out a way to make it a recognized, reimbursable procedure that you could bill five or six thousand dollars for.

But Mrs. Clinton must be prepared for the reality that there are a lot of vested medical interests in this nation just waiting to kill any messenger who comes in with a suggestion that their cash flow is central to the problem of health-care reform, that there is any way to contain medical costs without somehow containing medical profits.

Robert Reno is a columnist for Newsday.

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