Friday, August 21, 2009

The Obama Administration and Euthanasia

It is becoming clearer and clearer how the Obama administration hopes to save so much money on health care, even while extending entitlement programs. Obama keeps talking about how much "waste" there is to be cut out of Medicare and it becomes clearer by the day what his definition of "waste" is. Seniors who depend on Medicare are getting scared and the polls are starting to reflect it. Not much wonder. (Update: The Rasmussen Report Daily Presidential Tracking Poll has 31% strongly approving of Obama's performance and 395 strongly disapproving. This is his worst result to date.)

Obama apparently thinks that it is "wasteful" to keep people alive who would be "better off dead." The euthanasia emphasis just keeps popping up here, there and everywhere in his adminsitration. From the Wall Street Journal comes this piece by Jim Towey.

"If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family."

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran's health-care system that seems intent on his surrender.

I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update "Your Life, Your Choices" between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as "Compassion and Choices").

This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable." Read the rest here.

One of the most telling points here is that the booklet originated in the Clinton era and was squashed by the Bush administration. (It actually does matter which party is in office.) The other telling point is the Hemlock Society connection and no connection to any churches or disability rights groups.

The government is not being neutral on this issue; it is pushing euthanasia and that for people who have served their country in war. Making them feel guilty because they are a burden in order to make them want to die is morally revolting and an attack on fundamental decency. If you wanted to slip euthanasia in and keep it below the radar, I don't think this would be the best place to do it. Reaction and anger to this initiative are almost guaranteed.

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