Senator Wants Hearings on Obama Admin Veterans Guide Promoting Euthanasia

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

Senator Wants Hearings on Obama Admin Veterans Guide Promoting Euthanasia

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 24
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A senator says he wants Congress to hold hearings on a new Obama administration document that some say promotes euthanasia. The Department of Veterans Affairs have revived a guide called "Your Life, Your Choices" that was first published during the Clinton administration.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care brought back a 52-page end-of-life planning document that was suspended during virtually all of the Bush administration.

It was promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes but, as Jim Towey writes in the Wall St. Journal, "the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues and suspended its use."

Under Obama, the VA has now resuscitated the guide, written by Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center and who advocated for physician-assisted suicide in the 1996 case of Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

Now, Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, says the document raises "a lot of questions" and he is calling for immediate hearings on it.

"I think consideration ought to be given right now to suspending it pending hearings," Specter told the Fox News Sunday program.

Towey also spoke about the guide on the program and said it makes injured veterans feel like a burden, encourages the severely injured to die and should be tossed out.

"This is a slippery slope," he said "When you look at the book it makes people feel like they’re a burden and they should do the decent thing and die. … When a veteran comes back from Iraq, they shouldn’t be given a book like this."

Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Fox program that the guide hasn’t been fully revised and is not yet officially implemented.

She called it a "tool" and said it was just one of many options for veterans, not the only one.

Fox reports that an official directive from July tells VA health practitioners to refer veterans to the document but Duckworth said she questioned whether the directive had been approved at higher levels.

One section of the guide titled, "What Makes Your Life Worth Living?" asks veterans to check boxes such as "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and "My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family."

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