Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Does a 'Death Panel' Already Exist?

(I liked what Andy McCarthy had to say in this NRO post that I am reproducing it in its entirety.]
At the American Thinker, Joseph Ashby says yes:
H.R. 1 (more commonly known as the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, even more commonly known as the Stimulus Bill and aptly dubbed the Porkulus Bill) contains a whopping $1.1 billion to fund the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. The Council is the brain child of former Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Tom Daschle. Before the Porkulus Bill passed, Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant governor of New York, wrote in detail about the Council's purpose.

Daschle's stated purpose (and therefore President Obama's purpose) for creating the Council is to empower an unelected bureaucracy to make the hard decisions about health care rationing that elected politicians are politically unable to make. The end result is to slow costly medical advancement and consumption. Daschle argues that Americans ought to be more like Europeans who passively accept "hopeless diagnoses."
What ought to frighten the daylights out of everyone is how Obamacare lays the groundwork for what Mark Steyn calls the "Big Government ratchet." As Ashby elaborates:
What may pass as a 1,000 page health care law will explode into perhaps many thousands of pages of regulatory codes. The deliberate vagueness will give regulators tremendous leverage to interpret its provisions. Thus Obama's Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein will play a major role in defining the government's role in controlling medical care.

How does Sunstein approach end of life care? In 2003 he wrote a paper for the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies arguing that human life varies in value. Specifically he champions statistical methods that give preference to what the government rates as "quality-adjusted life years." Meaning, the government decides whether a person's life is worth living. If the government decides the life is not worth living, it is the individual's duty to die to free up welfare payments for the young and productive.
Not to rehash our discussion here about the proper definition of a death panel, but, again, I think saying the government will be "deciding whether a person's life is worth living" is about more than "cut[ting] off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure" — the narrow definition of death panels used by the New York Times (as Ashby recounts). It's about foreclosing care to the treatable — based on some government formula — such that they wither and die before their time. For all these years, the Left has told us we must butt out of end-of-life decisions because they are so intensely personal; turns out they're only intensely personal if you're decision is to die — if you want to live, that's up to the bureaucrats.

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