Return of the Death Panel


The New York Times ran a fascinating Christmas Day story online, to appear in today’s print edition, about the return of the “death panels” for ObamaCare.  The term comes from a famous Sarah Palin Facebook post from 2009, in which she said:

“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.”

Palin’s conclusion flows logically from Sowell’s observation.  Government control of anything equals rationing, pure and simple: the use of compulsive force to divide a limited resource, with no input from the recipients beyond the occasional opportunity to voice their displeasure during elections.  If health care will be rationed, the most critical care will be rationed most severely, since it has the most restricted supply.

Palin was able to shame the Democrats into dropping aggressive end-of-life counseling from ObamaCare during passage, but like everything else about the most disastrous bill of the modern era, it was a lie.  The Times approvingly reports that the Administration is quietly restoring these provisions through regulation, specifically a Medicare policy that will “pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.”  And just who will be writing those “advance directives?”  I’d say the odds of this Orwellian government naming it the “Life Panel” are better than even.

The new policy pays doctors to conduct “voluntary advance care planning to discuss end-of-life treatment” during annual checkups.  Dr. Maria J. Silveira of the University of Michigan describes the sort of question doctors might ask: “If you have another heart attack and your heart stops beating, would you want us to try to restart it?  Do you want to go on a breathing machine for the rest of your life?  When the time comes, do you want us to use technology to try and delay your death?” 

Just imagine how future directives will shape the way these questions are asked, as the utterly bankrupt ObamaCare system desperately tries to shift resources away from expensive end-of-life care… followed by the directive to abandon care entirely, based on “quality of life” equations that will become increasingly harsh for anyone who isn’t a member of the political elite.  The government can get a lot of people to sign away critical care simply by asking their insidious questions of young and healthy patients, who are much more likely to insist they don’t want to lie in a hospital bed with a bunch of tubes stuck in them.  

There’s no other way this can go, and the Democrats know it, which is why they dropped these contentious provisions from the original bill, but are now trying to quietly slip them in through the back door via regulations.  And I do mean “quietly.”  The most amazing part of the New York Times story is an email from Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) to his accomplices back in early November, when these new regulations were being drafted:

“While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops, because we aren’t out of the woods yet.  This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth… We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ – emails can too easily be forwarded… Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered [the new Medicare regulations], but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response.  The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

In other words, you knuckle-dragging imbecile voters might get all riled up if you knew about their glorious triumph, so the Democrats wanted to keep it on the down-low.  They were able to complete the process of putting these regulations together behind closed doors, untroubled by any concerned citizens who might have received an email that accidentally got forwarded outside of the conspiracy.

Memo to Democrats: Your days of running our lives through secret meetings are over.    If people like Palin and the blogging “Army of Davids” don’t expose you, the new Republican House majority will do it with subpoenas.  We’ve had our fill of wonderful plans that require unquestioning obedience from citizens who aren’t smart enough to understand their true magnificence.  I wonder how many more little surprises oversight committees will find crawling quietly around in the dark underbelly of ObamaCare, once they turn their flashlights on the aura of secrecy and deception surrounding this misbegotten bill.  Let us kill it quickly through defunding, and put people like Earl Blumenauer under oath to learn what else they’ve been doing behind our backs, while we wait for someone to take the veto pen away from Obama in 2012.