Whichever side of the healthcare debate you come down on, everyone can agree that premeditated lying is never cool. I was especially saddened this week to see so many people – broadcasters, politicians and private citizens – repeating the ridiculous claim that the current draft of the healthcare bill in Congress contains provisions that establish “death panels” to decide if elderly folks in poor health should be treated or be euthanized to “save costs”.
Look, regardless of how you think healthcare should be improved, every American needs to have clear, factual information about the proposed legislation to use in formulating an informed opinion. Otherwise, folks’ll be making their decisions about issues based on flawed assumptions. Where did this “death panel” story come from?
Well, the specific piece of the legislation that spurred the death panel story was a section that deals with End of Life Planning. End of life planning is something that Americans have been doing for decades. It is essentially sitting down with your family doctor and a lawyer to spell out what your wishes would be if you were too sick or injured to tell them yourself. The doctor advises you of your medical situation and your lawyer drafts a document – sometimes referred to as a “living will” – which puts it in writing. This way, when you’re 94 and in failing health, the doctor will know that if you slip into a coma, or have a seizure that leaves you brain dead, or you are in any way unable to communicate your wishes, your doctor will know that you chose earlier to decline resuscitation or artificial life support. Or the doctor will know that you choose to be kept alive in any circumstance. The point is, that it is YOUR choice and it is exceedingly good planning to make a Living Will.
This is why for more than 20 years, end of life planning has been covered by Medicare. The Republican senator from Georgia, Senator Isakson was the person who wanted the end of life planning to be covered under any new healthcare bill and inserted the language into the draft. End of life planning has never been a controversial issue until this week. Why?
I am afraid the answer is that folks who are promoting this story are flat out lying. Why? Because the health insurance companies are trying anything they can think of to stop the passage of healthcare reform that will level the playing field, bring down costs and force them to reap less profits. They know that senior citizens are very sensitive to the idea of changes in the healthcare system too, beacuse seniors rely heavily on the medical community. Seniors also are the most politically active demographic in America. So the insurance industry’s logic is, scare the seniors into opposing the bill and it will not pass. This is why they made up the story about the legislation calling for death panels that will decide if the elderly are “too sick to treat” (read too expensive to treat) and should therefore be left to die or wore, be “put to sleep”.
Don’t believe me that this story was the product of a calculated strategy to lie to the American people? Check out this link to an article in the NY Times for the details on the exact origins of the story.
Lastly I was saddened because as a citizen, these kinds of bald-faced lies insult my intelligence and should insult yours too. I mean really, regardless of how our elected leaders disappoint their constituencies on both sides of the political spectrum – no matter how corrupt or unfaithful or compromised we believe them to be – do we really believe any of them would vote in favor of allowing our grandparents to die of neglect or be killed for profit?