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End of Life Issues

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  • Erickson Seizes On Obama's Speech To Revive "Death Panel" Lie

    Blog ››› ››› MELODY JOHNSON

    Following the president's deficit speech Wednesday, CNN's Erick Erickson quickly grasped at straws to revive one of the right-wing media's go-to falsehoods about healthcare: death panels.

    From Erickson's RedState.com post, "Barack Obama Fully Embraces Death Panels":

    While everyone else was focused on Barack Obama bashing Paul Ryan, I noticed that he took full ownership of death panels yesterday. Naturally, Obama did not call them death panels. He called them "an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers." But his description hits dead on with what his death panels will do.

    According to Barack Obama yesterday, the death panels "will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need."

    We already know what they'll recommend as "the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending". Barack Obama's own advisers have told us. They will prioritize giving health care to healthier people and let sicker people die. At end of life, they will deny people life sustaining treatment because, after all, they're going to die anyway. Note his phrasing: "protecting access to the services seniors need." Dying people, according to Obama's advisers, need hospice not hope. They certainly do not need expensive treatments that may buy them time to see the birth of a new grandchild or other reasons.


    You may not like the use of the phrase "death panel," but make no mistake about it -- at the end of your life, in Barack Obama's America, his death panel will throw you under the bus in a way much closer to reality than metaphor.

  • Beck Continues Neverending Quest To Prove "Death Panels" Really Are "Coming"


    Despite hard evidence showing otherwise, Glenn Beck has continued to claim that a "death panel" -- a myth introduced by Sarah Palin during the debate over health care reform in 2009 -- is "coming." Indeed, Beck twice repeated the false claim on his radio show recently, and he has been pushing the myth incessantly since promoting it almost two years ago by saying: "I believe it to be true."

  • Right-Wing Media's Cognitive Dissonance Persists In "Baby Joseph" Case

    ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    The right-wing media has consistently portrayed the medical case of Canadian baby Joseph Maraachli as a fight for survival, claiming he was "rescued" from the Canadian hospital treating him, thus "sav[ing]" the child's life. In fact, Maraachli's condition is incurable -- a fact conceded even by the conservative priests who facilitated moving Maraachli to a Catholic hospital in the U.S. -- and the Canadian hospital had agreed to all of his parents' requests to discharge and transfer the child.

  • Fox & Friends Pushes Health Care Misinformation Using Case Of Canadian Baby

    ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Fox & Friends repeatedly used the tragic story of a 1-year old Canadian baby in a permanent coma to advance its health care reform misinformation, falsely claiming that the Canadian hospital is the cause of the infant's impending death, and fearmongering about a potential similar situation in America. In fact, the hospital is in no way the cause of the baby's coma or death, and comparisons between the health care law and the Canadian system are baseless.

  • Fox Uses Case Of Canadian Baby To Raise Specter Of Death Panels

    ››› ››› FAE JENCKS

    On Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly highlighted the case of a Canadian couple who Kelly claims has been "ordered to let their 13-month-old boy die." During discussion of the case, guest Wendy Murphy claimed the decision was "a cost issue," when in reality, the baby has no chance of recovery and doctors seek to avoid preforming a procedure that could increase the baby's discomfort and the risk of infection.

  • Intermittent Fact-Checking Continues At Washington Post

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last year, I wrote about some problems with the branded "fact-check" features several news organizations have been creating. Among them:

    The other problem with the execution of these highly structured, branded "Fact Check" pieces is that fact-checking shouldn't be relegated to occasional, highly specialized pieces; it should be a basic part of everyday journalism. Checking the truthfulness of a politician's statements shouldn't be something a news organization saves for its "Fact Check" feature; it should be present in every news report that includes those statements. It isn't enough to occasionally debunk a false claim, as I've been saying over and over again.

    What I'd like to see isn't another media organization with a branded, occasional "Fact Check" feature -- it's a news organization that commits to never reporting a politician's statement without placing that statement in factual context.

    The Washington Post -- the poster child for occasionally debunking false claims -- recently revived its "Fact Checker" column, and in doing so reminds us how little the paper actually cares about checking facts. Here's today's "Fact Checker":

    "A secretive government committee ('death panels') will be created to make end-of-life decisions about people on Medicare"

    This claim, first made by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, has been thoroughly debunked and was labeled "lie of the year" in 2009 by Politifacts.org. Yet it persists in the popular imagination. The September Kaiser poll found that 30 percent of seniors still believed this to be the case--and 22 percent were not sure, meaning fewer than half knew the claim was false.

    Why might the false "death panels" claim "persist[] in the popular imagination"? Perhaps in part because the Washington Post routinely mentions the claim without pointing out its falsity. Just last week, the Post did this on consecutive days, in a January 13 article by Karen Tumulty and Peter Wallsten and a January 14 article by Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane. Both articles reported the allegation that health care reform contained "death panels," but neither so much as hinted that it was false. This has been a defining characteristic of the Post's treatment of the "death panels" claim (contrary to former Post media critic Howard Kurtz's praise for the paper's reporting on the topic.)

    I can't imagine that there's anyone at the Post who doesn't know by now that "death panels" were a lie. And yet the paper routinely prints the lie without noting its falsity. The only conclusion you can draw from that is that the paper just doesn't think it has any responsibility to avoid passing falsehoods along as though they are true -- at least as long as those falsehoods come from right-wing political figures.

    Let's say a stock broker tells a Washington Post business reporter "ACME Wireless, Inc. stock has increased in value each of the last four years, with no signs of slowing down. Investors should buy it immediately!" And let's say the reporter knows this to be false -- knows that, in fact, ACME's stock is in a free fall, with no end in sight, and that its entire leadership is under indictment. Would the Post print the false claim without noting its falsity? I doubt it would; I suspect the reporter or an editor would recognize that it has a responsibility not to pass along such dangerously false investment advice to its readers. Likewise, if Happy Fun Ball was conclusively shown to cause cancer in everyone who touches it, the Post wouldn't print Wacky Products Incorporated's claim that the toy is perfectly safe without noting that, in fact, it causes cancer. Nor would the paper quote Redskins owner Daniel Snyder bragging about his team's playoff victory last weekend without noting that in fact the team finished 6-10 and failed to make the playoffs.

    So why does the Washington Post print Sarah Palin's lies without noting their falsity? Does the Post think its readers' ability to make informed political decisions is less important than their awareness of sporting events?

  • The Washington Post, Where Death Panels Never Die

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post knows "death panels" are a right-wing lie, dreamed up to falsely demonize health care reform and Democrats, even if it means scaring the elderly away from their doctors' office. And yet the Post sometimes can't bring itself to actually say any of that. That may seem like an odd aversion to the truth for a newspaper, but it probably doesn't surprise regular readers of the Post.

    And so it offends (but does not surprise) that, despite knowing that Sarah Palin was lying when she conjured up the image of government "death panels," the Post runs this noxious misinformation from Cal Thomas:

    That battle will be accompanied by the continuing political conflict between social conservatives and the Obama administration over same-sex "marriage," and "death panels" as part of "advance directives" being promulgated Dr. Donald Berwick, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services. Dr. Berwick is a known admirer of Britain's National Health Service and an advocate of rationed care, a term he doesn't use, but in an Orwellian manner would produce the same results with government deciding who gets to live and who is allowed to die based on a formula established by government.

    The Washington Post not only prints Thomas' health care lies -- and vicious anti-Muslim bigotry -- it promotes him as a "distinguished" panelist who is part of an "intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation." I'd hate to see what they consider uninformed and disrespectful.

  • Why Are Conservatives Trying To Scare Seniors Out Of Talking To Doctors About Treatment?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In the days since the New York Times' report that beginning January 1, Medicare will cover voluntary discussions between patients and doctors about end-of-life planning, conservatives (with help from media like the Times and the Associated Press) have been claiming that "death panels" are back and Sarah Palin was right. This is false. There are no death panels.

    When PolitiFact named Palin's "death panels" claim the 2009 "lie of the year," it noted the obvious implications of the term -- that the government would kill people:

    History professor Ian Dowbiggin, who has written several books on medical history, euthanasia and eugenics, said he had never heard the term before Palin used it. He said the phrase invokes images of Nazi Germany, which denied life-saving care to people who were not deemed useful enough to broader society. Adolf Hitler ordered Nazi officials to secretly register, select, and murder handicapped people such as schizophrenics, epileptics, disabled babies and other long-stay hospital patients, according to Dowbiggin.

    Palin's death panel lie clearly referred to the government denying medical care in such a way: "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."

    That -- obviously -- is very different from Medicare covering completely voluntary counseling sessions in which doctors discuss end-of-life care options with patients. Indeed, "different" seems inadequate; the two concepts are "different" in the way that an airplane is "different" from an orangutan. Even if you set aside Dowbiggin's sensible explanation of the implications of the term "death panel" and look only at Palin's literal words, what she said was the opposite of what is actually happening. In Palin's version, the government decides what care people will receive. The new Medicare regulation simply pays for voluntary sessions in which doctors discuss with patients what care they want to receive.

    But in the up-is-down, black-is-white, Sarah-Palin-is-a-truth-teller fantasyland of right-wing media, giving patients resources to make end-of-life treatment decisions -- if they want those resources -- is the same thing as not allowing them to make such decisions at all. And to the truly unhinged -- that would be Daily Caller columnist Tim Daniel -- Medicare coverage for voluntary counseling sessions is nothing less than a dystopian nightmare. Here's Daniel:

    Whether or not grandma is run over by a reindeer, Obamacare death panels will finish her off

    If grandma narrowly escaped being run over by a reindeer this Christmas, she may still suffer a worse New Years Day fate.

    Sarah Palin has once again been proven correct — death panels are back, surprisingly exposed the day after Christmas in the Sunday pages of the New York Times

    "Spooky Dudes" behind end-of-life Medicare "incentives":


    – The Chief Spooky Dude himself: President Barack Obama. Obama kept this insidious regulation a secret and is more insistent of grandma facing a grinning doctor death panel than defending anything that makes America great. Imagine if this man fought for liberty as fervently as he obviously fought for this onerous issue and other visions of his American dystopian future.

    Again: What Daniel is talking about here is a doctor and a patient talking through options for treatment and care -- if the patient wants to have such a conversation. And the government picking up the tab. That's all. You have to wonder what kind of person would try to scare sick senior citizens out of talking about treatment options with their doctor by convincing them that if they do so, a "grinning doctor death panel" will kill them. On second thought, the answer is pretty obvious.

  • Attention New York Times: Sarah Palin Is Responsible For Sarah Palin's Lies

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's the headline and lede of the New York Times' write-up of a Medicare regulation about advising patients of end-of-life care options:

    Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir


    WASHINGTON — When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over "death panels," Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.

    Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

    The Times never indicates that "death panels" was a lie -- PolitiFact's 2009 lie of the year, in fact. The closest it comes is a passage deep inside the article that refers to claims by Sarah Palin and John Boehner that the proposal would "encourage euthanasia" as "unsubstantiated." Printing a politician's lie without making clear that it is a lie simply encourages politicians to lie.

    While failing to make clear the falsity of the "death panels" claim it invokes, the Times article also blamed the bill, rather than the liars, for that lie -- the headline says the health care reform plan "caused" the stir, while the lead says the proposal "touched off a political storm." No. The storm was caused by Sarah Palin lying. Blaming the subject of lies for the existence of lies is nonsensical. It also encourages lying by removing some of the potential negative consequences of lying.