The real death panel myth is that the term ever had anything to do with something so potentially beneficial. We wrote at the time that Sarah Palin’s coinage was sensationalistic, but it was meant to illustrate a larger truth about a world of finite resources and infinite entitlement wants.
Under highly centralized national health care, the government inevitably makes cost-minded judgments about what types of care are “best” for society at large, and the standardized treatments it prescribes inevitably steal life-saving options from individual patients. This is precisely why many liberals like former White House budget director Peter Orszag support government-run health care to control costs: Technocrats in government can then decide who gets Avastin for cancer, say, and who doesn’t.
Democrats and the press corps accused Mrs. Palin of misrepresentation to avoid reckoning with this inexorable rationing reality that President Obama has himself implicitly acknowledged. In a 2009 interview with ObamaCare advocate David Leonhardt of the New York Times, he called for “a very difficult democratic conversation” about the costs that are incurred in the last six months of life. The President even mused about whether his own grandmother’s hip replacement following a terminal cancer diagnosis represented “a sustainable model.”