Fox News uses "death book" lie to revive "death panels" lie


Following several days in which Fox News promoted the smear that an educational booklet on end-of-life decisions used by the Veterans Health Administration is a "death book," Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg used a discussion about the booklet to revive the falsehood that Democratic health care reform legislation would institute "death panels." Kelly also falsely claimed that the booklet encourages veterans to "hurry up and die" and that VHA officials are "required" to refer patients to it.

Kelly, Goldberg connect VHA booklet to "death panels" smear

From the August 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: Well, just as the White House says that people's fear about so-called "death panels" is baseless, critics now claim the administration is actually pressuring certain disabled veterans to, quote, "hurry up and die" -- that's the accusation. Asking physicians at the nation's VA hospitals to refer to our nation's veterans to a pamphlet called "Your Life, Your Choices."

Title sounds innocuous enough. However, inside, this booklet asks veterans to decide whether their lives are worth living if they are, for example, in a wheelchair, in a nursing home, or if they have become, quote, "a financial burden to their families."


GOLDBERG: And I think, you know, the problem here is the defense that [Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Tammy] Duckworth offers, saying, "Oh, well, this wasn't put forward by the Obama administration." She's sort of saying this sort of burbled up from the bureaucracy, which no one really disputes. That is not all that helpful. Because one of the points that critics of Obama's plan make is that this -- once you get the structure for it, it'll be on autopilot, and the bureaucracies will naturally tend towards exactly this kind of thing and death panels may, in fact, be not too far off on the horizon because of the very nature of how socialized medicine and rationing works. [America's Newsroom, 8/24/09]

"Death panels" smear has been widely debunked

Media debunk "death panels" lie dozens of times. Numerous media outlets have now debunked right-wing claims that the House health care reform bill would encourage euthanasia of the elderly, including Sarah Palin's Facebook claim -- forwarded by the conservative media -- that the bill would create a "death panel" and the related claim -- initiated by Betsy McCaughey -- that the bill would "absolutely require" that seniors on Medicare undergo end-of-life counseling "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." Indeed, Media Matters for America has identified more than 40 instances in which media outlets have reported that these claims are false.

Kelly forwards claims from "critics" that booklet tells veterans to "hurry up and die"

From the August 24 edition of America's Newsroom:

KELLY: Well, and it becomes a little bit more scary, doesn't it, Jonah, when you've got the government, in case of the VA -- or, perhaps, in the case of our new health care system, if it goes through -- the government is in charge of paying the bills for the person who's in the wheelchair or in the nursing home or so on. And so when the government is coming to that person and saying, "You really need to take stock about whether life is worth living under your current conditions. Ask yourself if you're a financial burden." It puts a layer of pressure, is the argument, on those people to basically, as I said in the intro -- this is from the critics -- quote, "hurry up and die," you know, for these veterans who've come back from war.

"Your Life, Your Choices" does not tell veterans to "hurry up and die." The booklet emphasizes that "your wishes will direct future health care decisions" and presents preserving one's life "using any means possible" as an option to consider. An August 23 post by blogger Richard Smith criticized former Bush administration official Jim Towey's assertion in The Wall Street Journal that "Your Life, Your Choices" presents "end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions," writing: "Really, if the document was really trying to get veterans to pull the plug on themselves, then first suggesting to them that their life should be prolonged at all costs is a pretty stupid way to do it" [emphasis in original].

Kelly falsely claims VHA doctors are "required" to show patients the booklet

From the August 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: Let me ask you about that, because Tammy Duckworth said, "Look, it hasn't" -- she maintains it hasn't been in effect. Now, the facts appear to belie that, because this has been up --


KELLY: -- on their website since July 2, and it requires physicians at VAs to at least refer their patients to this booklet. So, put aside that fact. Shouldn't the Obama administration just take this down? Maybe they inherited it from the Bush administra-- shouldn't it just come down off the website -- end of controversy?

VHA does not "require" physicians to refer patients to the booklet. A July 2 VHA document actually directs patients to " 'Your Life, Your Choices' ... or other published resources."

Fox previously cropped doc to falsely claim VHA doctors "told to refer all veterans" to booklet. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace repeatedly cropped quotes from the document to support his false claim that under the document, "VA health practitioners were told to refer all veterans -- not just end-of-life veterans, but all 24 million veterans -- to this document, 'Your Life, Your Choices.' "

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