Lawmakers Confirm House Health Care Bill Promotes Euthanasia Among Elderly

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 24, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Lawmakers Confirm House Health Care Bill Promotes Euthanasia Among Elderly

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 24
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Two Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are confirming reports that the health care restructuring bill the House is currently considering promotes euthanasia. A leading patients rights advocate is worried about the effects of the legislation.

Betsy McCaughey, the former New York lieutenant government who is now a patient’s rights advocate, notes that the government-run health care plan would require "end of life" counseling for seniors.

The counseling, she says, would be focused on telling seniors how to end their lives sooner.

In a statement sent to House Republican Leader John Boehner Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter confirm those fears.

"Section 1233 of the House-drafted legislation encourages health care providers to provide their Medicare patients with counseling on ‘the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration’ and other end of life treatments,’" the pair say.

That section "may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign."

"This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law. At a minimum this legislative language deserves a full and open public debate – the sort of debate that is impossible to have under the politically-driven deadlines Democratic leaders have arbitrarily set for enactment of a health care bill," they state.

The members of Congress call the section a throwback to 1977 when the old Department of Health Education and Welfare proposed federal promotion of living wills for cost-savings purposes described as "enormous."

At that time, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago decried this effort by saying, "’The message is clear: government can save money by encouraging old people to die a little sooner than they otherwise would. Instead of being regarded with reverence, and cherished, human life is subject in this view to a utilitarian cost-benefit calculus and can be sacrificed to serve fiscal policy and the sacred imperative of trimming a budget."

Boehner and McCotter are especially concerned about the provision given that Oregon and Washington have legalized assisted suicide and Montana has given conditional approval depending on the outcome of a state Supreme Court decision.

“With three states having legalized physician-assisted suicide, this provision could create a slippery slope for a more permissive environment for euthanasia, mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide because it does not clearly exclude counseling about the supposed benefits of killing oneself," they say.

"Health care reform that fails to protect the sanctity and dignity of all human life is not reform at all," the conclude.

In section 1233 of the tri-committee health care bill, a government-run "Advance Care Planning Consultation" is created.

McCaughey, in an interview with former presidential candidate Fred Thompson on his radio show warned people to "protect their parents" from the measure and said the consultation is essentially an attempt to kill off elderly Americans.

"One of the most shocking things is page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory absolutely that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session," she said. "They will tell [them] how to end their life sooner.

The bill calls for the recommendation of "palliative care and hospice" in the mandatory counseling sessions, which is pain relief as patients die.

The House bill requires "an explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title."

The measure also recommends a discussion on "the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration," which suggests that elderly patients could be advised not to receive it, which would hasten death.

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