Saturday, August 8, 2009
To Be Euthanized? Or Not To Be Euthanized? If Democrats Want To Save The Life of Their Health Care Bill, They Will Need Some Serious Medicine
President Obama assures us that the government is not going to get into the euthanasia business, but Charles Lane, a Washington Post's editorial writer, is notably so sure that the President is correct.
In his radio address today, Obama labeled as "outlandish" claims by critics that his health care plan "will promote euthanasia, cut Medicaid, or bring about a government takeover of health care. That's simply not true." OK, but maybe the President should take a closer look at Section 1233 of the House version of Obamacare. Charles Lane did, and here's what he wrote today in the WaPo:
...Section 1233 of the health-care bill drafted in the Democratic-led House, which would pay doctors to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years -- or sooner if the patient gets a terminal diagnosis.
On the far right, this is being portrayed as a plan to force everyone over 65 to sign his or her own death warrant. That's rubbish. Federal law already bars Medicare from paying for services "the purpose of which is to cause, or assist in causing," suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. Nothing in Section 1233 would change that.
Still, I was not reassured to read in an Aug. 1 Post article that "Democratic strategists" are "hesitant to give extra attention to the issue by refuting the inaccuracies, but they worry that it will further agitate already-skeptical seniors."
If Section 1233 is innocuous, why would "strategists" want to tip-toe around the subject?
Perhaps because, at least as I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous.
For Lane, writing in The Washington Post, which endorsed Obama last year, the words "not totally innocuous" can be read as, "critics are right to be worried, but I can only go so far here at the Post."
As Wesley Smith and many others, mostly on the right, have argued, over the past few decades, the specialty of "medical ethics" has been mostly taken over by a mindset that Smith calls "The Culture of Death." Such a phrase will be regarded as too incendiary by many, but the outlook that Smith identifies can be fairly summarized as secular, left-of-center, and Benthamite in its utilitarian outlook. Such views tend to cluster among the educated upper middle class--the intelligentsia that often takes its social and cultural cues from its peers in Western Europe. And yet "European" outlook is regarded with suspicion by many Americans--probably most Americans, who reject, for example, the government-sponsored euthanasia seen in, say, Holland, or even a hint of government-sponsored euthanasia. Which is why, Lane continues, liberals prefer not to get into this topic at all, because there's plenty of evidence to bolster their critics. (One supposes that they should be more careful about what they write, but maybe it's too late for that.)
But in the meantime, as liberals try to decide what they can say, and not say, conservatives feel no compunctions. They filling up the void, making their points with posters such as the above. Is the gist of this "Cash for Clunking Senior Citizens" poster unfair? Does it go too far? Maybe. But for many Americans, maybe most, there's plenty of truth in it. And out of such reservoirs of mistrust will come all sorts of conspiracy theories, to say nothing of political pushback on Obamacare.
And that's one way in which Obamacare itself could be euthanized. If the Obamans and the Democrats want to get a bill through Congress, they will have to put themselves firmly on the side of life--on the side of Serious Medicine.
Photo credit: The People's Cube.
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 10:33 AM