Monday, November 28, 2011

ObamaCare "Death Panel" Targeting 70-Year-olds?

For anyone who doubted Sarah Palin’s charge that ObamaCare would lead to government “death panels”, more evidence supporting her charge has surfaced. We Stand Firm, the website of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, has posted excerpts of a conversation between an Illinois neurosurgeon and radio talk show host Mark Levin discussing “upcoming new guidelines from the Obama administration restricting how doctors can deliver medical care.”

In the FIRM post, Dr. Paul Hsieh compares this neurosurgeon’s comments to another neurosurgeon, Dr. Hendricks, a character in Atlas Shrugged who rebels against socialized medicine. The full transcript of the segment of the Mark Levin show can be found here. Notably, patients are referred to by government bureaucrats as “units”. This is the rhetoric of bean counters, not doctors.

In the transcript, the neurosurgeon, who called himself Jeff, said:

I just returned from Washington, DC, where we were reading over what the Obama health care plan would be for advanced neurosurgery for patients over 70, which we all found quite disturbing. As our population gets older, the majority of our patients are getting over 70. They'll require stroke therapy, aneurysm therapy, and basically what the document stated is that if you're over 70 and you come into an emergency room... if you're on government-supported health care, you'll get "comfort care".

You know, we always joke around -- 'it's not brain surgery' -- but I did nine years after medical school, I've been in training ten years, and now I have people who don't know a thing about what I'm doing telling me when I can and can't operate.

Apologists for the new healthcare law strenuously deny the death panel charge. But they are correct only in the very narrowest sense. ObamaCare does not specifically establish actual Death Panels, but it does establish the broad scope of power to do so, which is laced throughout the law. As John David Lewis explains in his Winter 2009-2010 Objective Standard article, What the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” HR 3962, Actually Says, “This legislation empowers the executive branch, namely the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a ‘Health Choices Commissioner,’ to write thousands of pages of regulations, and to force Americans to comply with them.” In other words; death panels by a thousand edicts.

One of the apologists is which calls the death panel charge the "Lie of the Year." Yet buried within its own article debunking the charge, it unintentionally points to how the nature of the law proves Palin right:

History professor Ian Dowbiggin, who has written several books on medical history, euthanasia and eugenics, said he had never heard the term before Palin used it. He said the phrase invokes images of Nazi Germany, which denied life-saving care to people who were not deemed useful enough to broader society. Adolf Hitler ordered Nazi officials to secretly register, select, and murder handicapped people such as schizophrenics, epileptics, disabled babies and other long-stay hospital patients, according to Dowbiggin.

"It's not far-fetched to make the historical argument that as you get government more and more involved in health care, you create an environment that is more hospitable to the legalization of forms of euthanasia," Dowbiggin said. "But the Nazi example should be used very advisedly."

No, it's not far-fetched given the nature of ObamaCare and of government-run medicine generally. When the government coercively takes over responsibility for paying for something, it acquires the power to control. Who pays the bill, sets the terms, ultimately. When the government pays for healthcare, it will assume the power to make healthcare decisions for the patient and medical judgements for the doctor, including life and death decisions. And it’s not only about end-of-life situations (See my posts of 10/19/11 and 11/20/11).

Obama is not Hitler, and ObamaCare is not Nazism. But both empower government with the same kinds of authoritarian mechanisms as Germany had. Hitler drew upon the established German government powers of Bismarck’s 19th Century welfare state. The Obama administration is already on record - through a key adviser - as advocating overriding the Hippocratic oath with “social justice.” Just as Hitler placed the collective (the race, in his case) over the needs and rights of actual individual human beings, so “social justice” places the collective (society) over the needs of individuals. This means, in essence, that healthcare decisions must be weighed against “whether the money could be better spent on somebody else” – those, according to a key presidential adviser, who may be better qualified for “being or becoming participating citizens”. ObamaCare, like Hitler, will favor those “deemed useful enough to broader society.” When the responsibility for dealing with the cost of healthcare is stripped away from the individual, where it rightfully and morally belongs, and turned over to the government under the guise of calling it a national problem, which clearly it is not, the individual patient is reduced to a “unit” – expendable on the whims of bean counters and the alter of “communitarianism”.

[Important Note: FIRM has an update alerting us to the fact that the claims of Levin's talk show guest are being refuted. See Snopes Disputes Neurosurgery Rationing Claim. However, whether or not the claims of the guest are false, the fact remains that ObamaCare empowers government with such controlling authority.]

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