The Big Question, Aug. 12: “Is there any merit to conservative charges that healthcare reform could lead to euthanasia or ‘death panels?'

Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
Absolutely, it is a really great line that scares to death millions of people around the country and will help arouse opposition to the health care reform package. And, mainstream reporters are so dumb and/or lazy, they will act like it is a reasonable charge even though it has nothing to do with the real world. So, do these claims about death panels and euthanasia have merits as a political strategy for the Republicans and the industry groups trying to defeat health care reform? Absolutely!

Herbert London, President of the Hudson Institute, said:
The proposed healthcare bill does recommend counseling for anyone over 65 years of age. Although it does not make reference to euthanasia, it is easy to draw the conclusion that counseling by someone, who is not necessarily equipped to make medical decisions, could be interpreted as euthanasia guidance. Suppose someone of 80 has cancer, a condition that may require aggressive and expensive treatment. What will a counselor suggest? My guess is he will point out that the treatment is discomforting and is unlikely to extend life expectancy significantly. Perhaps the best thing to do is let nature take its course. Is this euthanasia? That depends on perspective, but that conclusion cannot be ruled out.

Bill Press, radio host, said;
There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that, under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan, all Americans will be summoned before “death panels” to learn how and when they will die. In fact, appearance before death panels will be required only of Fox News anchors and Republican senators or members of Congress who vote against the healthcare legislation. Which is only fair, because, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says, “Elections have consequences.” Glad I could help clear that up.

Dick Morris said:
Yes. As the healthcare system has to cover more and more people and the number of doctors declines (forced down by cuts in reimbursement rates, especially under Medicare), rationing is the inevitable result. This will lead to the denial of care to the elderly in critical situations, especially among the very old. And this will, in turn, lead to a de facto euthanasia.

Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, said:
No - it is completely, 100% made up. Anyone disagree? Anyone?

Armstrong Williams, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
It’s not a conservative charge. The media perpetuates that (with a little help from Rush). AARP first set this up as a bogeyman weeks ago to mask the fact that it has yet to plant its stake on health reform beyond vague platitudes. They’re all afraid of the Obama spin machine, and hedging their bets. So they attacked the one paper tiger they knew had no constituency. Republicans would be foolish to latch onto that third rail of healthcare. They’re trying to make a larger point that Obama-style health reform would lead to rationing. That much is true.

You can’t control costs without telling someone they will have to either wait or go without. There’s no getting around that fact. Look to European countries and how they’re assigning “value” to human life and procedures. As morbid as it sounds, how else can you quantify access and enumerate costs? Obama and his staff started this. Democrats just codified it in language that offers Medicare coverage for doctors who want to counsel seniors on end-of-life decisions. Has it been blown out of proportion? Yes, but they’re very real concerns. Conservatives shouldn’t get the blame for what frightens constituents, particularly senior citizens.

Melinda Warner, Director of Outreach/Deputy Research Director at Media Matters Action Network, said:
Long answer: Conservatives are willfully misinterpreting a clause in the House health insurance reform bill. The bill ensures that Medicare will pay for voluntary counseling for seniors who wish to speak to a medical professional about the wide range of issues people face towards the end of their lives. Many seniors report having unsatisfactory information on how to draft a will, what a living will entails, if their particular ailment(s) might someday require hospice care, and the like. The legislation simply ensures that seniors have access to that information – should they wish to receive counseling. It is NOT mandatory and would in NO WAY encourage senior citizens to end their lives early.

Short answer: No.

Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President of FRC Action, said:
Euthanasia and “death panels” are not as clear as the fact that taxpayers will fund abortions in the bill – however there are numerous signs that point to rationing in the bill, that could then lead to such things.

The biggest question mark comes from who wrote Section 1233 of the House health care overhaul bill. The original language was written by assisted suicide supporter Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) alongside a group that once was called the Hemlock Society – the nation’s biggest advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Hemlock Society helped draft Oregon’s assisted suicide law – legislation that has led some afflicted people in Oregon getting letters “consulting” them that, while the state run plan would not pay for their cancer treatments, the state would be happy to pay for assisted suicide if they choose that option. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said:
The euthanasia and death panel talk is a pure invention of people who have major conflicts of interest regarding health care reform.

Check out the Politifact.com Truth-o-Meter:
But it’s definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed.

We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person’s “level of productivity in society” to determine whether they are “worthy” of health care.






Taylor Marsh, blogger, said:
Well, it’s for sure it’s not going away, as Kathleen Parker proves today in her column “Easing the ‘Death Panel’ Fear”, while actually stoking it regarding mandatory participation. Yet Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) of Georgia, who is an end-of-life planning advocate, is a sane conservative who thinks talking about “death panels” is “nuts.” David Brooks called it “crazy.” In the AP “fact check”, Monsignor Charles Fahey, chairman of the board of the National Council on Aging, says there is no mandatory expectation regarding end-of-life counseling, no matter how you frame it, which really is the point, isn’t it? Unfortunately, these people are not being heard. No one can rise above the noise provided by shrill conservatives using “death panels” and twisting the debate into fear of “euthanasia” squealed by people who aren’t interested in a serious discussion about health care reform; also hoping to hit the Terry Schiavo crowd, the most active politically on the right, by implying that government will have control over our death (hitting the abortion issue, too). These same shrill right wingers detesting the notion that we have some freedom to choose the path the end takes that lies beyond God’s grasp. This thought to them heresy. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, said:
There isn’t now. But, let’s remember “The Golden Rule.” He who has the gold makes the rules. Consumers should retain control of health care through their own expenditures or through enforceable private insurance contracts. If the government ends up holding all of the health care “gold,” it is inevitable that it will eventually be making live and death medical decisions for some Americans.

Jeremy Funk, Communications Director of Americans United for Change, said:
The charge has almost as much merit as the existence of the Tooth Fairy–and doctors agree. See the Aug 11th ABC News story: “Doctors Agree Health Bill Has No ‘Death Panel’ Requirement for the Elderly” The charge is also the saddest example yet of just how low the forces of status quo are willing to stoop to scare and mislead people about the President’s proposal for health insurance reform. Does their shamelessness know any bounds?

Bob Franken, MSNBC contributor, said:
Republicans and their conservative super-compatriots like using the word “death.” The Estate Tax, they say, is a “Death Tax.” And now a healthcare provision that would merely compensate doctors for counseling about end-of-life options becomes a “Death Panel.”

Before entirely dismissing the simpleton language, it is fair to consider more subtle arguments:

Intensive medical care that might keep someone barely alive is incredibly expensive. It is always a good idea to make sure a doctor or other official discussing a living will with a vulnerable patient is not subtly nudging a person away from whatever preferences he or she might have.

But “Death Panels” and forced “euthanasia” are largely the fantasies of partisan operatives who know how to manipulate the fears of those who are frightened by the magnitude of change being considered to our healthcare system. Political cynicism? Who ever heard of such a thing?

Bernie Quigley, author and activist, said:
This issue hits the deepest cord: the anticipation of death, particularly the death of a loved one. I worked in a hospice for the dying 15 years ago in North Carolina and learned that death opens the deepest spiritual and cosmic questions. As Yale’s Harold Bloom said recently in a TV essay on the Mormons, knowing we will die is the central question behind all religion. When my mother passed away 15 years ago I spoke to a lawyer about signing “no heroic measures” forms. I kept the form on my desk for six months without signing it. When I did sign it, she died three days later.

Many and possibly most families today are involved in decision making on the death of elderly family members, I was told by counselors and lawyers. So the concern of the protesters is real. The death of a parent is one of the three or four most difficult and important things to happen in a person’s life. This issue needs to be addressed at the deepest level in the hearts and minds of the people through their rabbis, priests and monks. So far it hasn’t been.

Charlie Law, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
The only merit is political, and that only in the narrowest, most cynical sense.

Obviously, Palin’s “death panel” comment caters to the fear that a larger government role in healthcare is a giant step toward a totalitarian state, or at least a pretty evil socialist one. Libertarians as well as mainstream conservatives harbor this fear, not entirely without justification. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Ronald Goldfarb, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
Of course. And worldwide impotence, a smallpox epidemic, and hopefully the blackout of cable rabble-rousers.



Adam Mordecai, Partner at Advomatic LLC, said:
A simple fact check makes this a resounding No. There is no merit. The bill allows the government to reimburse doctors for the time they give to patients answering questions about end of life treatment. It was an amendment added by a Republican. Why is this being asked at all? Getting sound advice about end of life care is crucial for those with terminal illnesses. READ THE FULL RESPONSE HERE.

Adam Siegel, board member of Energy Consensus, said:
You’ve asked me “when did I last beat my wife”. There is no sensible answer to a truthless question. We know that this is a created story, seeking to enrage people into terrified fury, because it seems that many Republicans are scared to debate health care issues on their merits and on the basis of facts.

What is truly nonsensical about this, on top of the deceitfulness of those knowlingly purveying dishonest material, is that one of the strongest voices in support of the ‘terrifying’ item in question is that Johnny Isakson, a Republican lawmaker who has advocated for a provision similar to what is actually is in the bill: allowing Medicare to compensate patients for writing living wills and, evidently, getting consulting for end-of-life directives. READ THE FULL REPONSE HERE.