Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin has come under fire for her Facebook post accusing President Obama and the Democrats of including a "death panel" provision the health care bill. The Associated Press recently ran a 'Fact Check' article rebutting Palin's claim.
AP argues that the bill's end-of-life counseling provision has been mistaken as a promotion of euthanasia and thus the death panel assertion by Palin and many other conservatives is false and misleading.
The New York Times has joined in the death panel bashing. Jim Rutenburg and Jackie Calmes assert the following:
There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.
The AP is technically correct in stating that end-of-life counseling is not the same as a death panel. The New York Times is also correct to point out that the health care bill contains no provision setting up such a panel.
What both outlets fail to point out is that the panel already exists.
H.R. 1 (more commonly known as the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, even more commonly known as the Stimulus Bill and aptly dubbed the Porkulus Bill) contains a whopping $1.1 billion to fund the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. The Council is the brain child of former Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Tom Daschle. Before the Porkulus Bill passed, Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant governor of New York, wrote in detail about the Council's purpose.
Daschle's stated purpose (and therefore President Obama's purpose) for creating the Council is to empower an unelected bureaucracy to make the hard decisions about health care rationing that elected politicians are politically unable to make. The end result is to slow costly medical advancement and consumption. Daschle argues that Americans ought to be more like Europeans who passively accept "hopeless diagnoses."
McCaughey goes on to explain:
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.
Who is on the Council? One of its most prominent members is none other than Dr. Death himself Ezekiel Emanuel. Dr. Emanuel's views on care of the elderly should frighten anyone who is or ever plans on being old. He explains the logic behind his discriminatory views on elderly care as follows:
Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years.
On average 25-year-olds require very few medical services. If they are to get the lion's share of the treatment, then those 65 and over can expect very little care. Dr. Emanuel's views on saving money on medical care are simple: don't provide any medical care. The loosely worded provisions in H.R 1 give him and his Council increasing power to push such recommendations.
Similarly hazy language will no doubt be used in the health care bill. What may pass as a 1,000 page health care law will explode into perhaps many thousands of pages of regulatory codes. The deliberate vagueness will give regulators tremendous leverage to interpret its provisions. Thus Obama's Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein will play a major role in defining the government's role in controlling medical care.
How does Sunstein approach end of life care? In 2003 he wrote a paper for the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies arguing that human life varies in value. Specifically he champions statistical methods that give preference to what the government rates as "quality-adjusted life years." Meaning, the government decides whether a person's life is worth living. If the government decides the life is not worth living, it is the individual's duty to die to free up welfare payments for the young and productive.
Ultimately it was Obama himself, in answer to a question on his ABC News infomercial, who said that payment determination cannot be influenced by a person's spirit and "that at least we (the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research) can let doctors know and your mom know that...this isn't going to help. Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller."
Maybe we should ask the Associated Press and New York Times if they still think we shouldn't be concerned about a federal "death panel."