Pro-Life Leaders Want Congress to Overturn Death Panel Regs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 30, 2010   |   12:22PM   |   Washington, DC

Leaders in the pro-life community are angrily responding to the news that the Obama administration added “death panels” to the ObamaCare implementation.

They are calling on Congress to take steps to repeal the new regulations Obama officials put in place that they worry will give financial incentives to doctors to hold end-of-life discussions with patients that will lead to the rationing of their medical care. Doctors will instruct patients in the annual “voluntary” exams to write “advance directives listing the kind of treatment they wish to receive or not receive if they are unable to make their own medical decisions.

Although the advanced directives apparently can’t be used to facilitate an assisted suicide, there is concern physicians will pressure or persuade patients to make decisions that would ration care or withdraw lifesaving medical treatment.

Dr. Janice Crouse, of Concerned Women for America, told WorldNetDaily, “Those of us who voted in common-sense representatives to take control of the House will be expecting to see reversals of regulations like these that run roughshod over the will of the American people.”

Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver also weighed in, saying: “This new Congress has to pass a law that revokes this new Medicare regulation because we’re going to see pressure on the elderly to end their lives prematurely. This regulation is more egregious than the original Obama health care legislation.

“I’m not opposed to having end-of-life directives but the problem is when a doctor gets paid to consult annually with his patients,” said Staver. “Doctors will have a financial incentive to counsel patients on end-of-life care.

He told WND: “When you have the government mandating this end-of-life counseling, they’re conscripting doctors to do end-of-life counseling on a massive scale. It will be the equivalent of a super death panel. Elderly patients will get confused and will end up signing documents without having a clue what they’re signing, and they will sign away care they might really want.”

Cal Thomas, in an article appearing in World Magazine, says the Obama administration purposefully put the “death panels” in the law after the fact to avoid scrutiny after they were removed during the Congressional debate on the bill.

“Under a new policy not included in the law for fear the administration’s real end-of-life game would be exposed, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calls for the government to pay doctors to advise patients on options for ending their lives. These could include directives to forgo aggressive treatment that could extend their lives,” he writes.

“Sarah Palin deserves an apology. When she said that the new healthcare law would lead to “death panels” deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not, she was roundly denounced and ridiculed,” Thomas writes. “Now we learn, courtesy of one of the ridiculers—The New York Times—that she was right.”

Although Democrats dropped the idea during consideration of the health care law in Congress after significant public pressure, a new Medicare regulation taking effect at the beginning of the year will have the federal government paying doctors to advise patients on possible end-of-life care treatment options.

Under the ObamaCare law, Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits, is authorized and a New York Times report indicates the new rule covers “voluntary advance care planning” as part of the annual visit. The rule allows physicians to discuss with patients the potential of an advanced directive — which can be used to request medical care and lifesaving treatment, or deny it.

The section of the ObamaCare bill that had pro-life advocates concerned about death panels would have allowed for taxpayer funding of end-of-life treatment discussions via Medicare once every five years. The new rule pays for such discussions annually.

Elizabeth D. Wickham, executive director of LifeTree, warned before the Times article that the death panels had made a comeback.

The rule was issued by Donald Berwick, the prominent rationing advocate pro-life groups strongly opposed and who was given a recess appointment when Republicans in the Senate blocked his confirmation to head Medicare and Medicaid and lead implementation of ObamaCare.