Special Report portrays “death panels” falsehood as he said/she said issue

Fox News' Bret Baier repeated Sarah Palin's false assertion that the end-of-life counseling provided for under the House health care reform bill would, in Baier's words, “not be voluntary as the president says.” Baier did not note that the counseling would indeed be voluntary and that Palin's suggestion that the legislation would create a “death panel” is false.

Baier forwards false Palin claim that counseling wouldn't be voluntary

From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin says President Obama is misleading the public about what she has called “death panels” in health care reform. Palin contends advanced care planning consultations, which are an element in the House reform legislation, would not be voluntary as the president says. She lays out a detailed rebuttal on her Facebook page. The White House has named Palin as a person spreading wrong information about reform plans.

Palin previously warned of “Obama's 'death panel.' ” Palin wrote on August 7:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion. [Sarah Palin Facebook post, 8/7/09]

Responding to criticism of “death panel” claim, Palin claims counseling wouldn't be “entirely voluntary.” Palin returned to the topic on August 12, writing:

Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these “unproductive” members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care.


The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” [2] With all due respect, it's misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context. [Sarah Palin Facebook post, 8/12/09]

End-of-life care counseling provision would, in fact, be voluntary

Provision calls for Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 -- the provision Palin cited -- amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [waysandmeans.house.gov, accessed 8/13/09]

PolitiFact: "[T]he patients make the call. That's the definition of voluntary." Responding to Palin's latest Facebook note, PolitiFact.com wrote that Palin's claim that end-of-life counseling that would be covered under the House health care bill is not “entirely voluntary” is “False.” PolitiFact.com added, “The fact is that there is nothing in the health care bill that would require people to get the end-of-life counseling. Perhaps, as [Charles] Lane -- and by extension Palin -- argues, patients might feel some subtle pressure from a doctor to get the counseling. But the patients make the call. That's the definition of voluntary. We've said in our previous item that it was voluntary and we see nothing in Palin's argument that proves otherwise. And so we rule her claim False.” [PolitiFact.com, 8/13/09]

Palin “death panel” charge is false

PolitiFact: “There's certainly no 'death board.' ” PolitiFact.com wrote on August 10:

We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no “death board” that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. Conservatives might make a case that Palin is justified in fearing that the current reform could one day morph into such a board.

But that's not what Palin said. She said that the Democratic plan will ration care and “my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care.” Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!