Obama's Friends 'Out' the Death Panels

The president and his media enablers are outraged, just outraged, that anyone would suggest the prospect of, let alone come up with a name for, government panels designed to ration care for the elderly -- and as the president said, “pull the plug on grandma.” Nothing lower, the left punditocracy fumed, than coming up with the “death panel” slur. Except that is precisely what Obama and his ilk want.

We need look no further than the worshipful David Brooks, Obama’s political soul mate. He confesses, in a sort of Jack Nicholson code red moment that yes, darn it, he wants death panels. He chats with colleague Gail Collins in the New York Times blog: “I’m pro-death panel. We spend so much money on end-of-life care we have to have some way of talking about it.”

Brooks cites a moving piece in Atlantic Monthly by David Godhill which details the death of Godhill’s vital 83-year-old father who succumbed to an infection. But isn’t this the case against ObamaCare -- and Brooks' desire to shut off the flow of care to our inconveniently expensive parents and grandparents? It would be interesting to ask Brooks how much money he thinks was “wasted” trying to keep Godhill’s father alive for five weeks in the struggle to beat off an ultimately fatal infection. Well, in Brooks’ death panel world, we’ll nip much of that “wasteful” end-of-life care in the bud.

As for Obama, a candid Mickey Kaus observes: “I can't help but feel that the reason the president doesn't effectively rebut the ‘rationing’ argument is that he kind of believes we have to move toward rationing. But couldn't he fake it?” Well, Obama would have to fake it and muzzle a great number of his own advisors who seem to think there’s nothing wrong with limiting care for all of us and, specifically, pulling the plug on the grandmas and grandpas who account for a disproportionate amount of health care spending.

Obama, for example, would have to hush up Rahm Emanuel’s brother Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the president’s health care advisors. He too is all in favor of cutting off care to those whose days are limited and whose medical expenses are high. The Wall Street Journal reported on Dr. Emanuel:

True reform, he argues, must include redefining doctors' ethical obligations. In the June 18, 2008, issue of JAMA, Dr. Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the "overuse" of medical care: "Medical school education and post-graduate education emphasize thoroughness," he writes. "This culture is further reinforced by a unique understanding of professional obligations, specifically the Hippocratic Oath's admonition to 'use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment' as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others."

Dr. Emanuel thinks we need to stop all this chatter about the worth of the individual. Instead we should focus on communal needs. And he has just the scheme for allocating scare resources. Dr. Emanuel describes his ghoulishly named “complete lives” system:

"When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated." ... Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. ... Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

Translation: grandma’s life is "complete," so no more care for her. Or for 83-year-olds like Godhill’s dad, no matter how energetic they appear to be.

Let’s not kid ourselves then. For all the feigned outrage, the Obama crowd is not just willing to institute a push toward end-of-life counseling and government regulatory panels to tell us what treatments are “efficient”; it is a key feature of a nationalized health care system. A report from the UK tells us about the “Liverpool Care Pathway" for the dying patient (and maybe those not so close to dying):

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death. Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away. But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn. As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter states.

Dr. Emanuel would tell us there is no crisis at all. The problem is simply the unenlightened masses and improperly trained doctors who persist with an outmoded attachment to the worth of the individual.

The health care debate has been revealing. After the dog days of August, with their backs to the wall, Obama’s minions are tipping their hand. They’d prefer a different name than “death panels,” but in their less guarded moments they confess that they would be more than happy to shut off the flow of care to the elderly, who after all have lived “complete lives.”

If this seems monstrous, it is. But we are in the debt of Brooks and Dr. Emanuel for giving us some insight into the mindset of those who would remake our health care system.