Death Panels are Here

   by Diane Rufino, Jan. 4, 2011

Socialized health care has always conjured up the fear of rationed health care to those deemed of lower social value, such as the elderly and the disabled (but not necessarily criminals and predators, of course).  We’ve heard talk of “death panels” now for at least a  year – those beaurocrats who would be responsible for deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not….   Those who would have to determine the value of the life that requires medical care and then make the weighted decision as to whether the costs involved would be better spent on others.

It sounds like a “cost-benefit analysis” – the kind of analysis that government officials, as well as the rich and powerful, are so fond of making to justify decisions and investments.

Rationed health care (or death panel decisions) would make sense, even though in the minds of Americans, we don’t want to face that cold reality.  We look around and see the dynamic changing in our country.  Those who value hard work and education and pursue the American dream (wealth and prosperity) are becoming the minority. The middle class and wealthy class are shrinking.  In other words, the income tax-paying segment of society is shrinking. Those who exist at the poverty level or just above are out-producing the contributors.  Immigrants and illegals are burdening our system.  Health care for all that is subsidized by a shrinking subset of the population is bound to reach the point where care will NEED TO be rationed in order to remain feasible.

On July 31, 2009, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann took the floor of the House and addressed rationed health care:

“We need to know what the people who advised the President of the United States think and believe about health care reform, Mr. Speaker. Listening to the President’s advisors’ actual words is very enlightening.

This morning I read a column written by Betsy McCoy – from a column dated July 24, 2009 – and I’d like to quote extensively from it now.  Ms. McCoy wrote the following.  She said that the health care bills coming out of Congress would put the decisions for our care in Presidential appointees.  The government will decide – not the people, not their doctors – what our plan will cover, how much lee-way our doctors will have, and what senior citizens will finally get under Medicare.

But what is more important are the actual words of the President’s advisors on health care. Here are the words from one of the President’s first advisors, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advocates health care rationing by age and disability.  He is the  brother of the White House Chief of Staff and has already been appointed to two key positions:  One is as Health Policy Advisor at the Office of Management and Budget and the other is as a member of the federal counsel on Comparable Effectiveness Research.  This is what Dr. Emanuel has written, and I quote: “Big promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, establishing electronic medical records, and improving quality of health care are merely lipstick measures for cost control… they are more for show and public relations than for true change.”

Isn’t this how Democrats promised to save $500 billion in health care costs?  The President’s own advisor, however, says this is just lip service.  This isn’t where the real savings are.  Savings, the President’s advisor, writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients.   For example, doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously.

Now hear me, Mr. Speaker.  This is the President’s own advisor writing this:  ‘Doctors take their Hippocratic Oath too seriously’…. as an imperative to do everything possible for the patient, regardless of the cost or effects on others.  But that’s what people want and expect their doctors to do.  Dr. Emanuel, on the other hand, wants doctors to look beyond the needs of the patient and consider social justice, such as if the money would be better spent on someone else.

This is a horrific notion to our nation’s doctors, but it is also a horrific notion to each American because doctors believe, just as Americans believe, that social justice is given out one patient at a time. But the President’s advisor, Dr. Emanuel, believes that communitarianism should guide decisions on who gets care.  He says that care should be reserved for the non-disabled.  So watch out if you or someone you love is disabled.  He says care should be reserved for the non-disabled and not given to those who are “irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.”  An obvious example, he said, is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia (even though they may have spent their entire lives as productive good citizens).

We just lost my father-in-law to dementia two months ago. I thank God that the doctors were able to alleviate my poor father-in-law’s symptoms at the end of his life, at age 85.  Apparently, under the Democrats’ health care plan, my father-in-law would not have received the high quality of care that he received in his last two months of life.  The same would apply for a grandmother with Parkinsons or a child with cerebral palsy.  Watch out.

In fact, the President’s advisor defends discrimination against older patients.  He writes, and I quote: “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination.  Every person lives through different stages of life, rather than being a single age.  Even if 25-year-olds receive priority care over 65-year-olds, everyone who is now 65 was previously 25.”  [The error in his logic, of course, is that everyone really needs the medical attention when they are closer to 65 and not when they are younger, and they live their lives expecting that greater medical attention when they need it… when they need the quality of life and the comfort that comes from medical intervention]

These bills that are being rushed through Congress right now are going to cut over $500 billion from Medicare in the next ten years, putting it on the backs of the State legislatures to fill in the gaps.  Knowing how unpopular these cuts are, the President’s Budget Director, Peter Orszag, has urged Congress to sever their own authority over Medicare in place of a new Presidentially-appointed beaurocracy that will not be accountable to the public.

The President’s next advisor, Dr. David Blumenthal, recommends that we slow medical innovation in order to control health care spending.  He has long advocated government spending controls.  He in fact considers the worth of medical innovation – that is, new and expensive treatment and devices – to be debatable. He says they are often associated with long waits and selective availability.  He questions whether the timely, or less-than timely, care Americans get with innovative health care treatments is worth the cost.

Mr. Speaker, Americans need to wake up and read what the President and his advisors say about healthcare reform.”

On August 7, 2009, Sarah Palin brought up the concept of government “Death Panels” when she wrote:

“As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.

Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.

We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our health care system is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Let’s stop and think and make our voices heard before it’s too late.”

Palin was severely criticized for such talk of death panels.  How preposterous.

But now we realize that Sarah Palin deserves an apology and Michele Bachmann, although we didn’t want to have to conceive of rationed care here in the United States, was trying to warn us.  We just learned, thanks to an article in the New York Times that these women were right all along.  The new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will indeed lead to “death panels” deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not.  Oh, it will not be as overt as that.  Instead, we will see it instead through a doctor “advising” elder patients or counseling them on end-of-life options that don’t include expensive treatments.

And in fact, that is exactly how it will play out.   Under a new Medicare policy not included in the original law passed by Congress, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. This option was originally going to be included in the healthcare reform bill, but it was omitted from the final health care bill because of the potential political fall-out and claims that it would encourage euthanasia.

The final version of the health care legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in March, authorizes Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or “wellness” visits. The new Medicare rule provides that doctors will be compensated for discussing at such wellness” visits “voluntary advance care planning,” which includes end-of-life treatment.

This rule will inevitably lead to bureaucrats drafting general guidelines as to who is “fit” to live and who is not. (Here is where you are supposed to shutter because you just recalled the “death panels” of Nazi Germany).

So now the Death panel ‘myth’ has been debunked.  As Cal Thomas wrote on January 3rd, in his article:  “New Rule May be Deadly”: “Ah, but it’s not a myth, and that’s where Palin nailed it. All inhumanities begin with small steps; otherwise the public might rebel against a policy that went straight to the “final solution.” All human life was once regarded as having value because even government saw it as “endowed by our Creator.”

It’s true.  The death panel is not a myth.  It is indeed a reality which started with the New Year.  The question now will be whether the panels will remain should Obamacare be invalidated or repealed.  Will Medicare continue to pay doctors to counsel elderly Americans on end-of-life options that don’t include expensive treatments?  At what point does advice become “coercion”?  And at what point does the payment itself become coercive?  Will it cloud the doctor’s mind with respect to his Hippocratic oath?

Mr. Thomas also wrote: “Once the definition of human life changes, all human lives become potentially expendable if they don’t measure up to “evolving” government standards. It will all be dressed up with the best possible motives behind it and sold to the public… [T]he next step [will be] physician-assisted suicide and, if not stopped, government-mandated euthanasia.”.

References: Sarah Palin, “Statement on the Current Healthcare Debate,” Facebook, Aug. 7, 2009.  Referenced at:  http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=113851103434

Representative Michele Bachmann’s Address to the House regarding the President’s Healthcare Advisors, July 31, 2009, YouTube.  Referenced at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CHBvKGmevI

Cal Thomas, “New Rule May Be Deadly,” The Daily Reflector, January 3, 2010.  Referenced at: http://www.reflector.com/opinion/thomas/cal-thomas-new-rule-may-be-deadly-228345

Robert Pear, “Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir,” NY Times, Dec. 25, 2010.  Referenced at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/us/politics/26death.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

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