Twisted perspectives on the Law of the Land

The "health care reform" proposal moved a step closer to reality this past weekend when the U.S. Senate approved opening debate on the measure.  While a final version is clearly not imminent, there is mounting concern that any version that reaches the desk of President Obama will contain language that advances the agenda of those who support euthanizing the elderly and the vulnerable.

Dr. C.L. Gray, president of Physicians for Reform , has expressed grave concerns about the concept of the government replacing family and physicians in deciding who will and will not receive health care . He wrote,

“We the people” become powerless in dependency. Common to every major health care bill under consideration in Congress is a transfer of $1 trillion from the American people to Washington. With this massive transfer of wealth comes the transfer of power over medical decision-making.

Even now, Washington is proposing more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare. The elderly are being sacrificed for the “greater good” of society.

Further, one of the most thorough researchers ever to serve the voiceless, LifeTree ’s Ione Whitlock, has written a stunning analysis of why there is no victory in any current version of congressionally mandated health care reform. In her essay, “The Current Health Care ‘Reform’ Legislation: How It Will Make Rationing and Death Hastening the Law of the Land ,”  she sets forth the reasons why this is so:

In progressive politics, death frequently comes in packages labeled “life.”

And so it is with legislation such as that which is now before the Senate. Think you are supporting pain relief and hospice legislation in order to prevent assisted suicides? Wrong. Thanks to Big Death —a collection of heavily funded nonprofit hospice and palliative care groups—the line between palliative care (pain relief, symptom management) and imposed death has become blurred.

[The collection of nonprofits composing the Big Death group includes AARP, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, American College of Physicians, American Hospice Foundation, Center to Advance Palliative Care, Consumers Union, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association, Medicare Rights Center, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, National Palliative Care Research Center, Providence Health and Services, and Supportive Care Coalition.]

One Big Death “thought leader” who has helped create the confusion between life-affirming palliative care and imposed death is Ira Byock , Dartmouth physician and hospice guru. In a blog for the New America Foundation this summer, he illustrated our point. He suggests, using the example of one senior citizen, that we might improve seniors’ lives simply by giving them “reliable transportation … to the local senior center [where they would] share nutritious group lunches and noon-time discussions on advance directives for health care.” In other words, he wants to sell seniors a free trip to the center for a fulfilling and healthy life … to persuade them to focus on death, of course.

Byock drew early attention and support from the late Andrea Kydd , former organizer for the Welfare Rights Organization and board member of the Tides Foundation. Kydd, who was also health program director for the Nathan Cummings Foundation, directed the foundation’s support on two end-of-life projects in 1995: One was a collaboration with the Commonwealth Fund to conduct a caregiver study directed by Ezekiel J. Emanuel and his wife Linda; the other was Byock’s Missoula Demonstration Project . The grant from Cummings was followed by a grant from Soros, one of the earliest grants awarded in Soros’ Project on Death in America .

From there, Byock moved to projects sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He directed a massive $15 million project, Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care, that could have been called “Promoting Rationing.” It tested methods of “moving hospice upstream” in various “difficult” clinical settings and on specific populations: veterans’ hospitals, Native American reservations, African-Americans in urban centers and prisons, for example. The project, headquartered in Montana, focused on financial savings and various ways to convince people to accept “palliative care” earlier in the game.

Blurring the distinction between life-affirming care and hastened death eases the path for bedside rationing, which of course lowers costs. How to convince “difficult” cases to forgo life-sustaining treatment? Offer them palliative care.

When Promoting Excellence moved to South Carolina, the effort was focused on reminding a group of chronically ill patients who “generally do not see themselves as dying” that, in fact, they were dying. Diane Meier and Sean Morrison of Mt. Sinai in New York worked with New Jersey-based Franklin Health and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina for intervention by case management teams using advance care counseling and a variety of other tools. Meier’s group reported that the South Carolina population was “an ‘upstream’ population of very sick people, averaging 46 years of age, generally suffering from serious, progressive and life threatening illnesses, who will likely consume high dollar amounts of resources” and were thus chosen for intervention.

When Byock delivered a provocative keynote address to a conference of over
275 end-of-life researchers, policymakers and community activists, he described the “levers” that could be used to change the U.S. death-denying culture. Bureaucracy would be their ally. Byock noted that “German sociologist Max Weber said that social movements that become successful become routinized by the agency of bureaucracy. Therefore, ironically, bureaucracy is the means and the mark of our success to this point.”

While Byock rallied the “levers” and “agents of change,” he also quietly created a new right-to-die consumers’ group that would organize caregiver and hospice groups and pressure legislators to pass living will legislation. Byock brought AAHPM together with Choice in Dying (also known as the Euthanasia Society of America and Society for the Right to Die) to form Partnership for Caring in 1999. PFC’s mission was to articulate “a national policy agenda” and their first priority was “mandated universal access to high-quality care.”

Just when we think we are supporting a partnership for caring, we end up with the choice to die.

Now, 12 years later, the Senate is poised to firmly establish Big Death’s “agency of bureaucracy” by implementing the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan.

According to the principle of subsidiarity, medical decisions should be made at the lowest level—closest to the patient, with the least bureaucracy. That is the first step in protecting American health care. All current health “reform” legislation is the polar opposite.

This is indeed the case. Pope Benedict XVI teaches the following regarding the differences between a controlling state and one that exists to support initiatives generated by its citizens:

The State, which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. (section 28)

What is disturbing about the multiple efforts of Byock and his colleagues is that the language they employ sounds perfectly acceptable to the average American. It gratifies their sense of stewardship and love for those who are perceived to be in pain or are facing death in the not-too-distant future.

Beware! Behind this engaging mask resides a commitment to cut costs by cutting lives short. Of that, there is no doubt. Whitlock’s flawless research confirms this.

As LifeTree’s executive director, Elizabeth Wickham , PhD., points out, “No amendment can cure the death-dealing nature of the currently proposed legislation. It is critical that your voice be heard in opposition today and every day so long as these health care ‘reform’ bills are being considered.”

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  • jpckcmo

    Byock resigned from the PFC board because of its insensitivity to the views of the disabled and its “group think” mentality (his words).

    Right now, health care is being rationed by insurance companies. These decisions are not being made by those close to the patient in most cases. Does end of life care present challenges and a potential slippery slope? Sure. But ending my life with dignity is just as important is extending it. I welcome the discussion of my options. The best way not to be snowballed into a bad decision is to become educated.

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