What’s Behind the Death Panels Argument?

You may be sick of the garbage about death panels by now. I know I am. But for those who missed Jon Stewart’s classic takedown of Deather Queen Betsy McCaughey (here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the extended online version) I do want to dig into the issue a bit and look at the inspiration for such insidious hyperbole. Obviously there isn’t any language creating a government-mandated board to decide whether people live or die. But if we know what the House bill does say, that can help us defuse the smears and hopefully start to advance towards a substantive policy debate.

As Donny Shaw at OpenCongress points out, McCaughey and her Deather followers are drawing a false equivalence between end-of-life planning and government mandated euthanasia. What does the bill say regarding end-of-life consultation and living wills? Queen McCaughey refers us to page 425:

‘Advance Care Planning Consultation

‘(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.

‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

SOCIAMALISM!!! RUN!!!!! Um, no. This sort of advance planning is quite routine. Personally, I would want the decision whether to pull the plug on me to be decided by me, while I was still lucid. Ever heard of the website LegalZoom.com? They make a nice chunk o’ change in the private market doing this very thing, meaning there are a lot of people who want to make such plans. There was even a Seinfeld episode about this, for chrissakes. So nothing controversial here.

‘(F)(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders, which shall include–

    ‘(I) the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family and the reasons why such an order should be updated periodically as the health of the individual changes;

    ‘(II) the information needed for an individual or legal surrogate to make informed decisions regarding the completion of such an order; and

‘(ii) The Secretary shall limit the requirement for explanations under clause (i) to consultations furnished in a State–

    ‘(I) in which all legal barriers have been addressed for enabling orders for life sustaining treatment to constitute a set of medical orders respected across all care settings; and

    ‘(II) that has in effect a program for orders for life sustaining treatment described in clause (iii).


Kinda cuts the rug out from under the Deathers, doesn’t it?

‘(iii) A program for orders for life sustaining treatment for a States described in this clause is a program that–

‘(I) ensures such orders are standardized and uniquely identifiable throughout the State;

‘(II) distributes or makes accessible such orders to physicians and other health professionals that (acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law) may sign orders for life sustaining treatment;

‘(III) provides training for health care professionals across the continuum of care about the goals and use of orders for life sustaining treatment; and

‘(IV) is guided by a coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from emergency medical services, emergency department physicians or nurses, state long-term care association, state medical association, state surveyors, agency responsible for senior services, state department of health, state hospital association, home health association, state bar association, and state hospice association.

In other words, the drafters of the reform plan want to make sure this advance care plan is conducted by people who know what they’re doing. Nearly every industry employs some form of standards or Best Practices. Because some ways of doing this are empirically more effective and fair than others. Ya know, science and all?

Which is why it should be no surprise that the cadre of science hating troglodytes that is the modern G”NO”P base believes the folks mentioned in part (d), a cross-section of leading medical professionals, to be some sort of “death panel”.

And that’s the point here. The talk of killing your poor innocent granny is just another front of the highly dangerous war against science and empiricism.


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