Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where did the death panel idea come from?

Hat tip: Just One Minute.  Where did people get the idea that there would be "death panels" evaluating who's worthy of medical care?

And in the course of talking about runaway costs and ways to reduce them, Obama actually advocated end-of-life panels issuing voluntary guidelines with Timesman David Leonhardt, as reported in the Times; by way of introduction, Obama had been discussing the story of his grandmother, who was terminally ill with cancer when she had an expensive hip replacement procedure so that she would not be bed-ridden for the last three to nine months of her life:

THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

So as of April 2009 Obama himself expected the final legislation to include some sort of group (but NOT a "death panel"!) that would produce voluntary guidelines for end of life care with an eye towards saving money. 


HOW VOLUNTARY?  And how voluntary will these imagined guidelines be?  Doctors that are currently free to prescribe painkillers volunteer not to, to avoid hassles from the DEA.  Mightn't doctors prefer to follow the "voluntary" end-of-life guidelines rather than risk Federal examination of their taxes, expenses, hiring decisions, and payroll?  That would depend in large part on how aggressively the government chose to push the "voluntary" guidelines. 

Based on the current public reaction to these "rumors" I would imagine that the Feds will steer clear of this, for now anyway.

No comments: