Democrat Who Started Latest Death Panels Row Regrets Email

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 31, 2010   |   12:55PM   |   Washington, DC

The Democrat who started the latest national debate over the inclusion of so-called “death panels” by the Obama administration into federal regulations now regrets doing so.

The office of Representative Earl Blumenauer, an assisted suicide advocate from Oregon who works closely with pro-euthanasia groups like Compassion and Choices, alerted supporters of the change the Obama administration implemented and worked to ask them to keep the news quiet.

“We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists e-mails can too easily be forwarded,” his staff wrote. “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this [regulation] goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

The memo talked of a “quiet” victory and had the congressman worrying about how Republican leaders would “use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.”

But reported on the new regulations and, weeks later, the New York Times got a copy of the memo Blumenauer wrote and the national dustup began.

Now, Blumenauer told The Hill that he regret’s the secretive language used in the email, which he says he did not see beforehand.

“If I had seen the memo, I would have suggested it be worded differently,” Blumenauer told The Hill. Still, he defended the controversial new regulation.

“This was a reasonable thing for the administration to do,” Blumenauer said, adding that he doesn’t expect Congress to try to repeal the regulation because Republicans are focusing on repealing and de-funding ObamaCare in its entirety.

Democratic strategist Bill Galston told the congressional newspaper that Blumenauer hurt efforts to defend the regulation by trying to keep it a secret, saying, “It was stupid.”

Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council commented on the memo and said pro-life people need to understand the importance of Blumenauer’s role in the debate.

“Blumenauer is very important to this tale for it is with him that the legislative origins of the assisted suicide language begin,” he said. “The origins of the language are extremely important when you think about the motivation of the people behind it.”

“The original bill language would provide Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to doctors who direct people to take their own lives instead of seek treatment and was written by a group called Compassion & Choices, an offshoot of a group from the 1980′s that called itself the Hemlock Society, the nation’s leading advocate for assisted suicide,” McClusky explained. “Ultimately the language was not in the final passed bill, though many other factors leading to rationing were included.”

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.