Barack Obama Defends Health Care Bill Against Rationing, Euthanasia Concerns
by Steven Ertelt
August 11, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In a town hall on Tuesday featuring mostly a sympathetic and friendly crowd, President Barack Obama defended the Congressional health care bills against concerns surrounding rationing and euthanasia. Obama essentially dismissed the concerns and called them scare tactics.
At issue is Section 1233 of HR 3200, the government-run health care plan that the House will consider when it returns from its August recess.
The measure would pay physicians to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years or sooner if the patient has a terminal diagnosis.
While pro-life advocates say the section opens the door to physicians pushing euthanasia or withdrawal of lifesaving medical treatment, or even basic food and water, backers of the bill call the claims rubbish.
Obama dismissed the critics who cite this section and said they were trying to "scare the heck out of folks" with "wild misrepresentations that don’t bear any resemblance to anything that’s actually being proposed."
He said all the section does is authorize Medicare to pay physicians to counsel patients about end-of-life care such as living wills, hospice and other issues and to do son only if the patients request it.
It would not "basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that it’s too expensive to let her live anymore," Obama said.
He said Congress put the language in the bill and defended their decision saying lawmakers "very sensibly thought this was something that would expand people’s options."
But Charles Lane, a member of the editorial board of the liberal Washington Post newspaper, has written an analysis of the bill that makes Obama’s characterization of the section appear off base.
"Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite ‘purely voluntary,’" as backers of the bill assert, Lane says. "To me, ‘purely voluntary’ means ‘not unless the patient requests one.’ Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist."
"Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they’re in the meeting, the bill does permit ‘formulation’ of a plug-pulling order right then and there," Lane explains.
"What’s more, Section 1233 dictates, at some length, the content of the consultation," Lane continues.
He points out the legislation says the doctor "shall" discuss "advanced care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to"; "an explanation of . . . living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses" even though those are legal and not medical papers. The physician "shall" present "a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families."
"Admittedly, this script is vague and possibly unenforceable," Lane writes. "What are "key questions"? Who belongs on ‘a list’ of helpful ‘resources?’ The Roman Catholic Church? Jack Kevorkian?"
Ultimately, the Post editorial writer says "Section 1233 goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it. Indeed, the measure would have an interested party — the government — recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations."
"You don’t have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach," he concludes.
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