Senate Committee to Drop Controversial "Death Panel" Provision From Health Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 13, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Committee to Drop Controversial "Death Panel" Provision From Health Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 13
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A Senate committee will drop a controversial provision that detractors have said will set up "death panels" for elderly Americans. Though the committee may remove the controversial language, the House health care bill has wording in its legislation that presents more concerns.

The provisions in question concern end-of-life counseling and they have been derided because they provide financial incentives for physicians to promote various options.

However, those options, in three states, could include assisted suicide, or they could include promoting withdrawal of lifesaving medical treatment or food and water.

The Senate has two of the five health care bills and the language on the Senate side is reportedly not as controversial in that it would allow patients to receive the end-of-life counseling but does not provide financial motivation to physicians who participate in Medicare to urge them to do so.

The language also apparently does not have the mandates that appear on the House side that compel those with a terminal condition to get the counseling.

Still, Sen. Chuck Grassley, a pro-life Iowa Republican, says the Senate Finance Committee will drop the end-of-life counseling from its version of the Senate health care restructuring bill.

"On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of these issues and policy options," he said Thursday. "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

The committee is the only one of five panels, three in the House and two in the Senate, that has not voted its measure to the floor.

But Grassley said he expects the Senate measures to make more progress because of the problems, like the end-of-life counseling, with the House bills.

"The bill passed by the House committees is so poorly cobbled together that it will have all kinds of unintended consequences," he said.

He complained that the House language would pay physicians to "advise patients about end-of-life care and rate physician quality of care based on the creation of and adherence to orders for end-of-life care."

"Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can’t," Grassley added.

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