SENIORS: Will Government Become the “Grim Reaper?”

By Elois Zeanah

Controversy has erupted over what House Bill 3200 says about end-of-life counseling.  Can Section 1233 be interpreted to mean “death panels”?  And what about rationing?  Will rationing by bureaucrats to save costs, to be blunt, result in government becoming the “Grim Reaper?” 

Section 1233 is not as benign as the President pretends, according to Dr. Charles Krauthammer, who stated:  “This offers government reimbursement to any doctor who gives end-of-life counseling – whether or not the patient asked for it.  [The purpose] is to create an incentive for such a chat.” 

Krauthammer goes on to say that Section 1233 “is subtle pressure applied by society through your doctor.  And when you include it in a health-care reform whose major objective is to bend the cost curve downward, you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it’s intended to gently point you in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sick room where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release.”[1]

What does Obama’s Health Adviser Say?   

Let’s take President Obama at his word.  He asked the American public to judge who he is by the people he chooses as his friends and appoints as his advisers.  This is not very comforting!  His health adviser, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, has written statements as a bioethicist, that will make a senior’s heart flutter.  For starters, Dr. Eamnuel “blames the Hippocratic Oath for the ‘overuse’ of medical care.[2]

Who should get medical care?  Who should decide?  Whose life is worth saving?

“The health bills being pushed through Congress put important decisions in the hands of presidential appointees like Dr. Emanuel.  They will decide what insurance plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have, and what seniors get under Medicare.”[3]  Dr. Emanuel has been appointed by President Obama to two key health care positions:  health-policy adviser and the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.  What he thinks will heavily influence health policy.  Here’s a sampling of what Dr. Ezekiel believes, based on his personal statements:

  • Health reform will not be pain free.
  • Doctors’ ethical obligations must be redefined.
  • Patients’ needs must be balanced with what’s good for society.
  • Medical students should be trained to emphasize “socially sustainable, cost-effective care.”
  • Scarce medical resources must be carefully allocated.
  • Decisions about patient care cannot focus on only the worth of the individual.
  • Age and productivity should guide medical decisions.
  • “Individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years” should be given priority over younger and older patients.
  • Allocating medical services by age is not discriminatory.
  • The U.S. should erect “a decision-making body similar to the United Kingdom’s rationing body – the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) – to slow the adoption of new medications and set limits on how much will be paid to lengthen a life.”

Do these beliefs make you feel better about rationing and end-of-life counseling intended by House Bill 3200?  If Dr. Emanuel is in charge of your medical treatment and if you have cancer, for example, your chances for survival based on best-practices medicine will plummet.   

The U.S. is rated No. 1 out of 191 countries for responsiveness and giving individual patients choice. 

This will change if Dr. Emanuel has control of your health care insurance.  “Dr. Emanuel has fought for a government takeover of health care for over a decade.  In 1993, he urged that President Bill Clinton impose a wage and price freeze on health care….Now he recommends arm-twisting Chicago style.”[4]

“’Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda,’ he wrote last November 16 in the Health Care Watch Blog. ‘If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration’s health-reform effort.’ 

“Is that what Americans want?”[5]  Do you feel better about the sections of House Bill 3200 that deal with rationing and end-of-life counseling?  Or does your scared fluttering heart feel like going to a town hall meeting and voicing your opinion while you still have a choice?

[1] Charles Krauthammer, “Living wills aren’t used in many case, August 21, 2009

[2] The Wall Street Journal:  “Obama’s Health Rationer-in-Chief,” by Betsy McCaughey, August 27, 2009

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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