Once again, Sarah Palin brings the essence of a disputed policy into sharp focus. With dramatic flourish she illustrated average Americans’ concerns with her own in a post on her Facebook fan page. She said:
The Democrats promise that a government health care 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 health care discussion.
The bolded sentence caused an outcry on the left, but also among Republicans trying to take a measured tone. Ezra Klein interviewed Sen. Johnny Isakson and asked:
How did this become a question of euthanasia?
I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.
Now wait just a minute. Talk about conflating the debate or, more likely, being willfully obtuse. Sarah Palin rightfully notes at the end that a government involved with health care issues will be involved in life and death decisions.
Since the goal of government-run health care is to insure everyone while simultaneously holding down costs (an outrageous goal on its face), decisions will have to be made. Those decisions will be made by the ones paying the bills — the government bureaucratic panel of political appointees. This is already happening in Oregon where there is a public option health care system.
The majority of health care expenses occur at the end of life. Right now, doctors and family members struggle with the ethical decisions individually. A way to cut costs would be to make central decisions — a “death panel,” if you will. How will the decisions be made? Well, political advocacy groups with the most power will push the panel to make certain choices. There will be bias. But mostly, there will be political correctness and bottom-line decision making by a very small group of people.
Americans on both sides of the debate are looking at the guts of the bill, sure, but more than that, they are seeing the debate as philosophical. That is, those in favor of the public option, those who support the president, believe that health care is a right like clean air and water. They believe the collective should pay for the health care of the less fortunate. If that means cutting some services, rationing, and cutting costs on a few, to serve the whole, so be it. On the other side of the debate, those who support a free-market solution to the health care challenges see the public option as an intrusive, taxpayer-funded way to give a vast, unaccountable bureaucracy far more power.