Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obamacare and Set Theory

Obama and the supporters of Obamacare seem flummoxed by the way polls show people favoring various provisions of the bill, while hating the bill overall. How, they ponder, can so many people like all these parts of it and not like the whole thing?

To understand that, a bit of basic Set Theory.

I'll oversimplify to make it easy to follow.

On any given provision of the bill, there will be three sets of people -- those who like it, those who hate it, and those who have no opinion. For each provision, we will look at the set of those who like it. So the Set of People Who Like Provision A will just be called Provision A for short.

Obama seems to think that the sets are additive -- that is, The Set of People Who LIke The Whole Bill ought to equal the sum of Provision A + Provision B + Provision C and so on. But if you add Provision A + Provision B + Provision C, etc., you'll get The Set Of People Who Like At Least One Provision of the Bill, not The Set of People Who Like the Whole Bill.

Let me illustrate. It's not to scale, because I'm illustrating a basic point, not trying to get exact numbers here.

So -- here is the Set of People Who Like Provision A:

If you pass a bill that's just Provision A, all these people will like it.

Now, watch what happens when you add The Set of People Who Like Provision B:

The area covered by both circles would be The Set of People Who Like At Least One Provision. It's bigger than Provision A or Provision B. But The Set of People Who Like Both Provision A and Provision B is depicted by the area of overlap. It is smaller than either Provision A or Provision B alone. Mathematically, The Set of People Who Like Both Provision A and Provision B can not be larger than the smaller of the two sets.

Following me?

As you add more provisions, two things happen:

The Set of People Who Like At Least One Provision can grow, but The Set of People Who LIke All The Provisions can't. It can never be bigger than the smallest set. And unless there is 100% overlap between any two sets, the Set of People Who Like All The Provisions will continue to get smaller and smaller as you add more provisions:

You've seen this in real life when you try to get a group of people to agree on what to order on a pizza. In a group of 10 people, 8 may like pepperoni, 9 may like extra cheese, 6 may like sausage, 8 may like onions, 4 may like pineapple, and 1 may like anchovies. That doesn't mean you're going to have 10 people who want a pepperoni, sausage, onion, pineapple, and anchovy pizza with extra cheese. The largest possible number of people who would like a pizza with all those toppings is one -- and that's if the anchovy person also likes pepperoni, extra cheese, sausage, onions, and pineapple. If the anchovy person doesn't like extra cheese, even he won't want a pizza with the works.

And this is how you can get so many people who like one more or more parts of the Obamacare bill, while having only a minority that like the whole thing.


Christina Dunigan said...

Not sure what relevance that has to this post, but yeah, I'm aware of that.

I'd prefer that doctors be educated about perinatal hospice, support groups for parents of children with disabilities, and mental health services for pregnant women. But if we're going to have doctors who are either lazy, indifferent, or eugenecists, and thus referring for abortions instead of for appropriate care, I suppose Boyd is a step up from Tiller in terms of overseeing the purely physical well-being of patients whose babies he's killing.

The issue of doing abortions on thoroughly demoralized patients who are only going through with it because somebody's bullying them into it -- well, we'll see if Boyd screens them out or just takes the blood money the way Tiller would.

OperationCounterstrike said...

Your answer raises an interesting question:

Suppose a patient says "My husband is pressuring me to get an abortion. He says if I don't, he will leave me. And, even though my own impulse is to grow the baby, I have decided to yield to his pressure and get the abortion anyway, so please do it."

In your view, should the doc do the abortion, according to the patient's request, or should the doc say "Sorry, I don't approve of your reason for choosing this abortion, so you can't have one! You must go have the baby instead, even though your husband says he will divorce you."

In other words, the question is, should patients be ALLOWED to yield to pressure and get abortions for that reason? Or should they be forced to defy the pressure, even if they prefer to yield?

I'm curious to know what you think.

I think when you experience pressure to make a decision, you should get to decide for yourself whether to defy the pressure or to yield to it.

OperationCounterstrike said...

Now consider the same question about a different operation.

Suppose a patient says "I don't really care about my appearance, but my husband says if I don't get a face-lift he will leave me, so please schedule one for me!" Should the doc do the face-lift, or should the doc say "I don't approve of your reason for wanting a face-lift, so I won't do it!"?

Lilliput said...

OC what do u think of Obamacare? I don't think you have commented on it and its an important thing to discuss.

OperationCounterstrike said...

I think it's hard to imagine how Obamacare could possibly be worse than the mess we have now.

Christina Dunigan said...

OC, both the abortionist and the plastic surgeon should refer the woman to someplace that can address the real issue in her life -- i.e. her horrible relationship with her husband. "An abortion/a nose job will not fix your problem. If you go through with it you will still be in a situation where your husband is pressuring you to do things that you don't want to do."

And the woman doesn't "grow the baby". It's not a cabbage, for crying out loud! She is choosing a live baby or a dead one, not a nonbaby versus a grown one.

OperationCounterstrike said...

And suppose, after the "abortionist" has done this, gone over the patient's personal life and recommended the changes, and offered referral to a social worker or whatever, suppose after all this the patient says "Thank you very much but right now I want to stay with my husband and I'm asking you to please do the abortion!"

What should the doc do then? Should (s)he do the abortion, or should (s)he say: "Sorry, if your reasons for wanting the abortion don't fit with my personal view of what is better for you overall, I won't do it, you must go grow the baby and give birth against your will"?

Christina Dunigan said...

It's NOT about his "personal views" -- it's about the fact that he's a DOCTOR and has a responsibility to do no harm. If a patient comes in asking for a treatment that won't fix the patient's problem, YOU DON'T DO THE PROCEDURE! An abortion won't make her husband any less of a jackass.

You don't remove a patient's appendix just because her husband thinks you should.

OperationCounterstrike said...

So then your answer is, the doc should say "I don't agree with your reason for wanting an abortion, so you can't have one!"?

OperationCounterstrike said...

How about an obstetrician? A patient comes in and says "I'd really like to abort my pregnancy, but my husband wants me to have the baby, and I've decided to yield to his pressure!" Should the ob say "I don't agree with your reason for wanting to keep this pregnancy, so I'm gonna strap you down and abort it!"?

You see the point? The patient needs to be able to decide whether or not to yield to pressure.

The fact that a patient is experiencing pressure to abort is NOT a good reason to deny her abortion and force her to give birth. The patient should be entitled to decide whether or not to yield to pressure.

Christina Dunigan said...

A doctor who performs procedures that will not help the patient is a bad doctor. See Michael Jackson.

Lilliput said...

Christina I think the issue here is that the reason that abortion became legal was that if doctors wouldn't do the abortion the women would try themselves or find someone less qualified to do it and in that case the doctor is practicing preventative medicine. I don't know about you but from personal and close friend experience it can take years and millions of hours before a women realises what a jerk the man she's given her heart to is. Sometimes it may take an abortion or two. You can tell a women how bad her man is till you are blue in the face but not get through to her. Binding her to this asshole with a child is clearly not going to make the situation better and what we don't need is even more fatherless children.

Its not plastic surgery

Christina Dunigan said...

Lil, "an abortion or two" is a dead baby or two.

Nancy Howell Lee's research into pre-legalization abortions found that the single greatest predictor of whether a woman would seek out an abortion was her perceptions of what her peers would do in her situation. Normalizing abortion leads to more abortions. Recognizing the urge to abort as abnormal and treating the underlying causes of distress will lead to addressing those underlying causes.