Green Room

Krauthammer v. Palin—The “Death Panel” Debate

posted at 4:14 pm on August 22, 2009 by

 Charles Krauthammer wrote a column over at Town Hall. It begins with:

 “Let’s see if we can have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling.

 We might start by asking Sarah Palin to leave the room. I’ve got nothing against her. She’s a remarkable political talent. But there are no “death panels” in the Democratic health care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate.


In response, East of Eden* wrote:

Dear Mr. Krauthammer:

If one thinks that a “death panel” is always and only a handful of implacable bureaucrats — be they doctors, scientists, ethicists or some other suitably selected expert — functioning like a parole board or the rank and tenure committee at a university, then, of course, you will not find “death panels.” Whether by incompetence or morally culpable indifference, those charged with designing “Obamacare,” have conjured far more insidious death panels.

Consider but one part of 1233:


(A) IN GENERAL- For purposes of reporting data on quality measures for covered professional services furnished during 2011 and any subsequent year, to the extent that measures are available, the Secretary shall include quality measures on end of life care and advanced care planning that have been adopted or endorsed by a consensus-based organization, if appropriate. Such measures shall measure both the creation of and adherence to orders for life-sustaining treatment.

And now consider Pres. Obama’s well-known remarks to Mr. Leonhardt of the NY Times:

“Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.” LINK

Now, there is clearly much that is objectionable about Pres. Obama’s comments. But the point is: Of course some supplicant will not be hauled before some tribunal. Rather the “death panel” will be further removed, more amorphous, hence more noxious yet no less real. No, the death panel will be that task force, or panel of experts, or “consensus-based organization,” or “independent group that can give you guidance.” And they will appropriate physicians as the mechanism of implementation, under the guise of incentives, but it will really be the coercive bureaucracy that routinely judges whether physicians meet the standards of care determined by our “consensus-based organization.”

Or consider the “independent group that can give you guidance” now being used by the Veteran’s Administration to counsel those facing difficult choices, in the grimly ironically titled “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.” (from Jim Towey, “The Death Book for Veterans,” WSJ, Aug 18, 2009)

Because he calls it a “death book”, should we ask Mr. Towey to leave the room, too, as you have asked Ms. Palin to leave the room?

Our juries comprise 12 or perhaps a couple dozen citizens. But as you well know, some 500 hundred Athenians sat on Socrates’ jury. Juries can be quite large or small. And “death panels” may be found behind an inconspicuous door, where sits a small handful of “health care jurists,” waiting to give some anxious and fearful family our current President’s idea of guidance.

Or death panels, Mr. Krauthammer, may be dozens or even scores of Dr. Robert Pearlmans, distributed throughout the country, perusing the health care data summaries prepared by technocratic lackeys, so that the Pearlmans may then anonymously conjure the protocols that will “guide” but “not be determinative of” some “incentivized” doctor as he or she “counsels”…who? those from the Greatest Generation? the Baby Boomers that promise to swell the ranks of Medicare recipients? my mother? you?…counseling that “You’ve had a good life; perhaps now is a good time to think about other options.”

Our bureaucracy doubtless will not put a name plate on the door that says “Death Panel.” But death panels there may be, nonetheless.

I do not know whether Sarah Palin is the only person in the room who saw through the ominous jigsaw that is HR 3200. But she is the one who named it. And while you have my sincerest respect, asking her to leave is simply ingracious……….END.

In this case, I’m inclined to agree with E of E, that while the term “death panel” may be considered extreme or even extraneous, I would submit that the intentional dialogue, (currently written in this healthcare bill), is indeed fraught with government intervention into our still private health care choices. Whether this remains the case, is, (hopefully), still up for debate.

* (note: “East of Eden” is a longtime friend who provides me with some reasonable insights from time to time, and prefers to remain anonymous)

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. . . and then there is “Comparative Effectiveness” already enacted and funded in the amount of $1 Billion dollars (US) by the “Economic Recovery act”.

Skandia Recluse on August 22, 2009 at 5:01 PM

“In this case, I’m inclined to agree with E of E, that while the term “death panel” may be considered extreme or even extraneous…”.

What’s the matter with you? Can’t you take the time to read what you’re commenting on? Palin used the term “death panels” in quotes, she wasn’t being literal. It’s appalling that so many people just make assumptions based on the writings of other fools who also can’t or won’t take the time to read.

I appreciate what East of Eden had to say and I agree with his/her analysis but this nonsense of repeating the lefties disinformation that she said there were literally death panels written into the bill and labeled as such was put forth simply to provide these liers with some political coverage. She put the term in quotes. Sheesh.

shmendrick on August 22, 2009 at 5:12 PM

In the UK, the “death panels” are called NICE. Does that make them any less of a death panel, or any more nice?

cthulhu on August 22, 2009 at 5:40 PM

shmendrick on August 22, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Weak point taken. But I would remind you that it is Krauthammer that’s taking Palin to task on this—not me.

I would submit that the intentional dialogue, (currently written in this healthcare bill), is indeed fraught with government intervention into our still private health care choices

Perhaps you forgot to “read” this part?

Rovin on August 22, 2009 at 7:08 PM

Obamacare as it stands now is an act of futility.

Krauthammer might be a little too close to the NRSC’s way of thinking. He is disappointingly an inside the beltway elite republican. I think that Charles should go back over Ronald Reagan’s writings and reinvigorate himself immediately. To me, CK seems to have forgotten what that progressive liberal movement truly means. It is simply a progression toward more govt control thru piece meal if/as necessary to finally achieve complete control by the nationalization of any private sector entity. I don’t think listing their recent achievements is necessary for the readers of this blog but I would have thought that CK understood this doctrine and/or mandate of this current far left agenda driven Democrat party. Reagan didn’t leave the Democrat party, the party left him & now Charles is choosing to leave the rock solid base of Reagan Revolution conservatism by dismissing the points that Sarah Palin clearly recognizes as the march toward a soft tyranny. If Charles feels that someone in the Republican party must maintain the high ground by not forewarning the base of this path these Democrats are taking us down, he has plenty of company already w/ the current crop of leadership of the GOP. Yes, exceptions such as DeMint & Boehner exist but neither of these gentlemen have the charisma that alerts the opposition and moves the conservative base to action.

Everyone knows now the main reason the White House & Democrat leadership wants Obamacare is for more power & control. So they pushed hard & fast to get it thru congress. Are they aware it is not supported under the existing articles & amendments of the US constitution? They were trying for a 787 billion dollar stimulus redo except this Obamacare would set a presedent that exceeds the federal government contitutional limitations.

Obamacare itself is unconstitutional. It will die in the floor of the house of representatives w/out a new constitutional amendment. Obama, Reid & Pelosi need to review the 10th amendment w/ a constitutional scholar & get back to us with a new way spin out of this problem. Health care itself qualifies as a commodity or as a “good[s]” such as something that is bought, sold or traded on an open & free market. Food, water & shelter are commodities as well & are sometimes regulated but they are not a right under the US constitution. Hence, health care is not a right. Health care can be regulated but it can not legislated by the federal government. It falls under the responsibilty of the individual States & their own constitutions. These types of issues are described & defined by the 10th amendment of the US constitution. If a constitutional convention is called for today perhaps this health care issue can be addressed someday down the road by a new constitutional amendment. The problem is that it takes awhile to convene something like a constitutonal convention. So let’s get into a robust debate about the fact that this national health care, as the US constitution reads today, cannot be legislated, passed or signed into a law. Obamacare as it stands now is an act of futility.

Americannodash on August 22, 2009 at 7:13 PM

It would appear from Krauthammer’s comments that he doesn’t really get it either. Or perhaps he needed to demonstrate his distance from SP to make sure he still got invited to all those insider cocktail parties with the rest of the mainstream pundits.

First he criticizes her incorrectly for the “death panel” analogy then proceeds to basically agree with her. It’s all just silly semantics. I had read his article before it showed up here. I just don’t like promoting the idea, put out by the Dems and continued by the MSM and some RINO pundits that she literally meant the term death panels were written into the bill. She never said that!!!

Is that too much to ask?

shmendrick on August 22, 2009 at 8:01 PM

Question for Krauthammer:

In what way has the Federal Government every promoted individual life over individual death? And to qualify the answer, disregard any adjacent program that heels to government imposed testing or design constraints.

ericdijon on August 22, 2009 at 8:12 PM

Krauthammer is interesting here for one reason.

He is a decent representative of the inside-the-beltway, gutless D.C. wing of the Republican party.

This, people, is what we’re up against. Not Obama – he’s a symptom, easily cured by a more .. aggressive .. Republican operation in D.C.

I’d like to suggest that Krauthammer vacation somewhere else – maybe the Wisconsin Dells – next year. Let him visit the water parks and the witches’ gulch and ride the ducks with Marge and Henry and the kids…


acat on August 22, 2009 at 8:43 PM

acat on August 22, 2009 at 8:43 PM

i dont think dr. k would really enjoy going to a waterpark.

chasdal on August 22, 2009 at 9:44 PM

Even Hank Aaron occasionlly stuck out
Mr. Krauthammer – you struck out

bill30097 on August 22, 2009 at 9:45 PM

I’ve been say for a long time Krauthammer is a putz but people keep defending him.

Jeff from WI on August 23, 2009 at 5:48 AM

chasdal on August 22, 2009 at 9:44 PM
I’m aware of his history, yes. Perhaps I should have said “go kart track”, or “colossal buffet” .. ?

The point, chasdal, is that he’s out of touch – he’s “country club” at a time when “country club” is not driving the agenda.


acat on August 23, 2009 at 9:22 AM

According to Mr. Krauthammer’s thinking, me and most of the people I know, should “leave the room”. I’ve done the research, I’ve read the articles and I’ve heard the explanations. They may not be called “death panels”, but the end result is the same.

tnmama on August 23, 2009 at 9:25 AM

Krauthammer’s losing me a bit more every time he speaks these days, it seems.

tsj017 on August 23, 2009 at 10:21 AM

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