Life Advocacy Briefing

August 17, 2009

Taking a Break? / Job # 1 / Standing Up / Plain Talk / Stop This!
Responding to the President’s Response / Who’s Behind End-of-Life Consultation Section?

Taking a Break?

WITH CONGRESS IN RECESS and pro-life eyes focused chiefly – and appropriately – on defeating or defanging the massive government scheme to take over our medical system, our editor is considering taking a break for a week. So please do not fret if you do not receive a Life Advocacy Briefing some week before the Sept. 8 return of Congress.

Should news warrant our publication, we’ll swing into action, but if we do take a week off, we hope our readers will understand and will persevere with Job # 1 without hearing from us.

 

Job # 1

DEFEATING THE HEALTHCARE TAKEOVER MUST BE JOB # 1 for pro-life citizens this month. Now that the committees of jurisdiction in both House and Senate have ground their collective will through these proposals, the intent to force taxpayers to underwrite the abortion industry is clear. Clear also is the threat to vulnerable disabled and elderly Americans, both in the provisions requiring doctors to initiate “end-of-life planning counseling” with their patients every five years after aged 65 and in the inevitable rationing being framed by the bureaucratic structures built into the legislation.

Citizens need to be pressing their US Representatives and Senators for a commitment to vote “no on ‘healthcare’” unless abortion is excluded explicitly and to insist that end-of-life counseling be dropped. Frankly, rationing is such a basic implication of the proposed system that it cannot realistically be excised from the scheme, but it is our opinion that cutting abortion and euthanasia out of the legislation would cost it so much leftwing support that the entire proposal would then fall.

And good riddance. The socialistic overhaul of our healthcare system is overkill. To the degree that the healthcare system needs fixing, that can better be done by modest, individual proposals and by such conservative approaches as lawsuit reform. [Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has a worthy proposal which has been rejected in committee but could be revisited if Congress must “do something.” In fact, his proposal would actually improve the health care of Americans and cost far less than the current system.] Collapse of the entire Obama/Democrats’ proposal would be a better outcome for Americans.

But regardless, we must not abide the outrage of being forced to cover abortion in a tax-supported government medical system.

 

Standing Up

CITIZENS CAN TAKE THE USUAL COURSES OF ACTION – writing to their US Representatives (US House, Washington, DC 20515) and Senators (US Senate, Washington, DC 20510), phoning their Capitol Hill offices (1-202/224-3121), phoning their home-state and district offices (contact info at public library reference desks), or sending them electronic mail via www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. (Or all of the above.)

But there’s another opportunity to stand up and speak out during this month’s Congressional recess. “Recess Rally Day” is scheduled for noon (local time) this Saturday, Aug. 22, at every local Congressional office across America.

Such concerted public demonstrations are bound to draw media attention and to catch the attention of the Member of Congress, regardless of whether the Representative or Senator is actually on site.

Organizers are hoping to recruit coordinators for every Recess Rally and have instituted an Internet website at RecessRally.com to offer further information. Regardless of whether a coordinator has volunteered for a particular office, however, citizens are encouraged to step forward at noon Saturday with their own home-made signs. Those wishing to volunteer as coordinator/local contact are asked to send an e-mail message to the national organizers at rally@americanlibertyalliance.com.

 

Plain Talk

FORMER ALASKA GOV. SARAH PALIN (R) HAS EMERGED into the “healthcare” debate. Posting a commentary on the Internet-based social networking site Facebook, she has used her personal political notoriety to bring the end-of-life and rationing aspects of HR-3200 to public attention, particularly with the notable – and media-quoted – declaration, “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system,” she asserts, “is downright evil.”

Her comments drew enough media attention that Senators dropped that provision from the version now pending in the Committee on Finance (but it’s still in HR-3200), and Pres. Barack Obama took the unusual step of trying to refute her “death panel” charge in one of his forays into America last week. That brought Mrs. Palin back to her computer keyboard to write a more extensive response to the President’s response. Because of their usefulness in explaining this aspect of the healthcare-takeover threat, we are reprinting both Palin commentaries in this Life Advocacy Briefing.

 

Stop This!

Aug. 7, 2009, commentary by Sarah Palin, posted on her Facebook page

As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current Administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no but hell no!

The Democrats promise that a government healthcare system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life–and-death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any healthcare discussion.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the President’s healthcare advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.

We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our healthcare system is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Let’s stop and think and make our voices heard before it’s too late.

 

Responding to the President’s Response

Aug. 12, 2009, commentary by Sarah Palin, posted on her Facebook page

Yesterday Pres. Obama responded to my statement that Democratic healthcare proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these “unproductive” members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care.

The President made light of these concerns. He said: “Let me just be specific about some things that I’ve been hearing lately that we just need to dispose of here. The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we’ve decided that we don’t, it’s too expensive to let her live any more. … It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc. So the intention of the Members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything.”

The provision that Pres. Obama refers to is Sec. 1233 of HR-3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” With all due respect, it’s misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context.

Sec. 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years and more often “if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual … or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility … or a hospice program.” During those consultations, practitioners must explain “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice” and the government benefits available to pay for such services.

Now put this in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in healthcare spending.” Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce healthcare costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care? As Charles Lane notes in the Washington Post, Sec. 1233 “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones. … If it’s all about obviating suffering – emotional or physical – what’s it doing in a measure to ‘bend the curve’ on healthcare costs?”

As Lane also points out: “Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Sec. 1233 aren’t quite ‘purely voluntary’ as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI) asserts. To me, ‘purely voluntary’ means ‘not unless the patient requests one.’ Sec. 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive – money – to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.

“Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they’re in the meeting, the bill does permit ‘formulation’ of a plug-pulling order right then and there. So when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) denies that Sec. 1233 would ‘place senior citizens in situations where they feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign,’ I don’t think he’s being realistic.”

Even columnist Eugene Robinson, a self-described “true believer” who “will almost certainly support” “whatever reform package finally emerges,” agrees that “If the government says it has to control healthcare costs and then offers to pay doctors to give advice about hospice care, citizens are not delusional to conclude that the goal is to reduce end-of-life spending.”

So are these usually friendly pundits wrong? Is this all just a “rumor” to be “disposed of,” as Pres. Obama says? Not according to Democratic New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, chairman of the New York State Senate Aging Committee, who writes: “Sec. 1233 of HR-3200 puts our senior citizens on a slippery slope and may diminish respect for the inherent dignity of each of their lives. … It is egregious to consider that any senior citizen … should be placed in a situation where he or she would feel pressured to save the government money by dying a little sooner than he or she otherwise would, be required to be counseled about the supposed benefits of killing oneself, or be encouraged to sign any end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign.”

Of course, it’s not just this one provision that presents a problem. My original comments concerned statements made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy advisor to Pres. Obama and the brother of the President’s chief of staff.  Dr. Emanuel has written that some medical services should not be guaranteed to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. … An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”  Dr. Emanuel has also advocated basing medical decisions on a system which “produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”

Pres. Obama can try to gloss over the effects of government authorized end-of-life consultations, but the views of one of his top healthcare advisors are clear enough. It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to healthcare rationing and more evidence that the top-down plans of government bureaucrats will never result in real healthcare reform.

 

Who’s Behind ‘End-of-Life’ Consultation Section?

Aug. 12, 2009, commentary by Jill Stanek, posted on the Internet at www.JillStanek.com

I wrote Aug. 10 about the now infamous Sec. 1233 in a House version of the nationalized healthcare plan, which has concerned even healthcare proponents as pushing euthanasia on the elderly.

Kudos to Family Research Council’s The Cloakroom for drawing attention to the fact that the two authors of Sec. 1233 are major proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The first is Oregon Cong. Earl Blumenauer (D). Recall Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide almost 12 years ago. Blumenauer wrote on Huffington Post July 28: “Rep. Buck McKeon admonished people to read the bill and then specifically cited Sec. 1233. Actually, I know a little bit about this section because it’s a bill that I wrote which was incorporated into the overall legislation.”

Blumenauer wrote an amicus brief in support of assisted suicide in a case before the US Supreme Court in 2005, Gonzalez v. Oregon. [That brief can be read via the Internet at http://blumenauer.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=442&Itemid=170.] Blumenauer also links on his website to a 1960 Harper’s magazine article promoting both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia.

The group Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, also says it had a hand in crafting Sec. 1233, writing July 27: “Compassion & Choices has worked tirelessly with supportive Members of Congress to include in proposed reform legislation a provision requiring Medicare to cover patient consultation with their doctors about end-of-life choice (Sec. 1233 of HR-3200).”

Compassion & Choices calls itself part of the “aid-in-dying movement.” About itself Compassion & Choices writes: “An organization dedicated to care of terminally ill patients, including those seeking a hastened death. … Compassion & Choices … improves care and expands choice at the end of life. … Our professional staff and trained volunteers help thousands of clients each year by … guiding their search for a peaceful, humane death. … We offer information on self-determined dying. … Our team of litigators and legislative experts fight bills that would force patients to endure futile, invasive treatment. …” And quoting C & C president Barbara Lee: “We dream of a time when all Americans can live and die as free people, in dignity and according to their own values.”

Come again that promotion of euthanasia isn’t part of Sec. 1233?

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