Pro-Life Advocates Call Obama Pick Donald Berwick a One Man Death Panel

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 7, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Advocates Call Obama Pick Donald Berwick a One Man Death Panel

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 7
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The reaction from pro-life advocates against the recess appointment of rationing advocate Donald Berwick to head up Medicare and Medicaid has been strong. They are very concerned Berwick, named to the post by Obama today after no hearings in the Senate, will promote rationing.

"Donald Berwick is a one-man death panel," said David N. O’Steen, director of National Right to Life.

"While Americans may not remember the agency he heads, he will quickly become known as Obama’s rationing czar," he told

Burke Balch, an attorney who is the director of medical ethics for the National Right to Life Committee, also chimed in on the appointment.

“The Obama recess appointment of rationing advocate Donald Berwick to head the key government agency that will apply the new health care law is disastrous news for the vulnerable, especially the elderly and the sickest of American patients,” he said.

He said Obama’s recess appointment is "an attempt to avoid examination, through the pending confirmation process, of Berwick’s well-documented support for rationing health care."

Confirmation of Berwick would have faced strong opposition from pro-life Republican senators appalled by his open advocacy of government-imposed rationing of medical treatment, the organization said.

FRC Action Senior Vice President Tom McClusky also said his group is opposed to Obama’s appointment.

"Berwick is another example of President Obama’s extreme liberal agenda, and only the latest in President Obama’s numerous missteps related to health care in America," he said. "Berwick has stated himself that England’s socialized medical services are better than those in the United States."

"Americans should keep their eyes open to guard their health from Donald Berwick’s extreme view of medicine. He will only bring America’s high standards for health care services down, and hurt Americans through rationing and lower standards of medical treatment," McClusky added.

In a June 2009 interview with the journal Biotechnology Healthcare, Berwick said, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”
In an article in the May/June 2008 issue of Health Affairs, he called for “rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest” so as to “reduce per capita costs.” Lamenting that “[t]oday’s individual health care processes are designed to respond to the acute needs of individual patients,” Berwick wrote that instead government should “approach new technologies and capital investments with skepticism and require that a strong burden of proof of value lie with the proponent.”

Berwick’s advocacy of the decimation of American health care is long-standing. In a 1994 Journal of the American Medical Association article, he wrote, “Most metropolitan areas in the United States should reduce the number of centers engaging in cardiac surgery, high-risk obstetrics, neonatal intensive care, organ transplantation, tertiary cancer care, high-level trauma care, and high-technology imaging.”

Berwick is also an enthusiastic supporter of Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the agency charged with determining which medical advances will – and which will not – be made available to the British public.

Berwick claims NICE has “developed very good and very disciplined . . . models for the evaluation of medical treatment from which we ought to learn.” England’s five-year cancer survival rate for men is only 45%, compared with 66% in the U.S. That for women is 53%, compared to 63% in the U.S.

The difference can in large measure be attributed to the refusal of NICE to authorized British use of pioneering cancer drugs routinely available in the United States. That is to say – currently routinely available in the United States – an availability Berwick will soon be using the power of government to curtail.

"President Obama’s appointment of this open advocate of rationing to implement his health care law underlines the need for repeal before untold numbers of vulnerable Americans suffer death from denial of life-saving treatment," O’Steen added. "The Obama health care rationing law much be repealed and voters need to remember its deadly provisions in November."


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