Palin Firestorm Brings Fresh Scrutiny to ObamaCare “Death Panels”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin ignited a firestorm over the weekend by calling the health-care reforms pushed by President Barack Obama "downright evil" for proposals that could usher in rationing, and turn federal health boards into "death panels" that would decide whether the elderly and the disabled, like her infant Down’s syndrome son, Trig, were "worthy of health-care." Palin’s provocative statements, however, have brought fresh scrutiny of the dangers of the proposed "Heath Benefits Advisory Committee," if it were to adopt guidelines of a "Complete Lives System" advocated by Obama’s policy advisor on health care reform, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.

Many Americans have flocked to town-hall meetings to protest what they see as the imminent government-takeover of the health-care industry, which makes up one-sixth of the total American economy. But more and more Americans revolting at Congress’s health-care reforms have expressed fears for the health-care of the elderly and disabled, whom they fear will be victims of rationing and even passive euthanasia by way of the "advance care planning consultation" provisions featured on pages 424 – 443 of HR 3200, "the American Affordable Health Choices Act."

"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," said Palin communicating through her Facebook page, which has over 715,000 subscribers.

Although the White House and members of the mainstream media rushed to dismiss Palin’s statement as "nuts," the threat of the government insurance plan becoming a "death panel" for the weakest members of society may not be far off the mark. ABC News recently reported that the Oregon Health Plan refused to cover cancer drugs that cost $4000 per a month for Barbara Wagner, a 64 year-old terminally ill patient with lung cancer. Instead they offered to give her a one-time prescription for lethal drugs to end her life, which would cost the state health provider only $50.

Palin attacked the promise of Congressional Democrats that the government plan would reduce the cost of health care, saying "as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost."

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

A main feature of the legislation is a proposed "Health Benefits Advisory Committee" under the Executive Branch, which would be charged with determining "essential benefits" for all health-insurance plans and formulate standards for treatment that incorporate cost-cutting strategies. The federal health board would be comprised of a panel of medical experts, half of which would be nominated by the President. Under the current proposal, the HBAC would be independent of Congress, and its rules and recommendations guiding doctor treatments and insurance companies could only be overturned if Congress, the Executive Branch, and ordinary citizens through the judiciary act within 30 days. Even then, the actions of the Committee would have to be accepted or rejected in toto, with no exceptions.

But Palin pointed out the enormous danger for federal health boards becoming "death panels" through a policy of rationing, esp. by following the policy proposed by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an issue first raised by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Emanuel is a key advisor of Obama’s health care reform as health-policy adviser at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. A member of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Bioethics Council and brother to Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, he advocates "The Complete Lives System," which as he described in a Jan. 31, 2009 article, "prioritizes younger people who have not yet lived a complete life."

Emanuel’s approach has five principles which he lays out in "Principles for Allocation of Scarce Medical Interventions" published on January 31, 2009: "youngest first, prognosis, save most lives, lottery, instrumental value."

"When the worst-off can benefit only slightly, while the better-off could benefit greatly, allocating to the better off is often justifiable," wrote Emanuel.

He continued that the CLS discrimination based on age is not "invidious discrimination" because "everyone who is 65 years now was once 25 years." But in the CLS, care would also be rationed away from young people with a "poor prognoses" because they lack "the potential to live a complete life." (Read here )

Emanuel has also stated that doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, and stated that "Savings [in the medical industry] will require changing how doctors think about their patients" in a 2008 article written for the Journal of the American Medical Association. In a separate 1996 article for the Hastings Center Report, Emanuel spoke about rationing care away from those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens" to the non-disabled, adding "An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

Approximately 33 percent of medical spending occurs in the final year of a patient’s life, and throughout the legislation (HR 3200), enormous pressures are put upon on physicians and medical professionals to incentivize them to cut costs.

Opponents, especially at tumultuous town-halls, have expressed fears that current provisions in the bill for government-run health-care could lead to doctors thinking of the bottom line first, could end up pressuring patients through "advanced care planning consultations" (sec. 1233) into accepting lower-quality care or care they do not want, out of a feeling that they pose some kind of burden on their families or society. Under that section in the version under discussion by the House Ways and Means Committee, doctors would formulate with patients end-of-life orders, regarding their desire to continue or discontinue antibiotic treatments or nutrition and hydration under particular circumstances.

Read H.R. 3200 "American Affordable Choices Act "

Read more on Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in New York Post "Deadly Doctors "

Read Ezekiel Emanuel’s article on Complete Lives System

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  • fatherjo

    Letting Obama and his cronies tamper with our healthcare system is like letting kindergartners do brain surgery. I suspect all of the energy being displayed at the town hall meetings will spill over into the voting booths. Obama made a huge blunder by introducing socialized and rationed medicine exactly when baby boomers are becoming senior citizens. This may be his own ticket to oblivion.

  • cmacri

    In a youth-oriented, everything-is-a-right, conscienceless world, people are waking up to the fact that health care reform means that they have to abdicate their “conscience” to the government.

    You can’t live forever, perfect (or at least the best money can buy) health care is not a right, and personal medical decisions should be made in light of the fact that certain treatments are excessive or a drain on resources for those that could better use them.

    Tort reform is one way to address some of these issues, but ultimately, a society which no longer believes in original sin and the reality of an imperfect, fallen world, will never be able to deal properly with health care.

    Interestingly, I have often seen bandied about the fact that minorities and those with lower incomes do not typically seek medical treatment until later in the progression of an illness. Perhaps having access to better medical care would remedy some of this. What in the meantime though? Does that mean since their prognosis in general is worse, their medical treatment would have to be less? Or what if the reason they seek treatment later is due to other factors besides access to medical care? Seems as if they would always be getting the short end of the stick.

  • Terri Kimmel

    Post a link to this column on your social networking sites. Share it with your friends.

    One of most insidious dangers of Obama’s initiatives is the aggressive deception taking place.

  • skylark

    The culture of death is persisting and growing with the help of Obama, Biden and Pelosi. What a slap in the face Biden and Pelosi give the Church, I’m surprised they haven’t been excommunicated. It is public Catholics like Pelosi and Biden who confuse Catholics, especially weak Catholics into believing in a relative Catholicism. Our priests are also silent when it comes to Obama, it’s a shame. I thank God I’m alive in these end times to see history unfold. Keep praying for the second coming, we have been waiting a long time.

    Pax Et Bonum…

  • skylark

    BTW, I forgot to mention. Palin would make a great Catholic, she puts Pelosi and Biden to shame.

  • It’s my understanding that Mrs. Palin has received the sacrament of Confirmation.

    As for the excommunication of such publicly dissident Catholics as Pelosi, Biden, Kennedy, Chittister, etc., that is up to their bishops. These men need our encouragement and prayers.