The New York Times reported that former Bush administration official H. James Towey criticized the booklet, “Your Life, Your Choices” -- which is one of several end-of-life educational materials used by the Veterans Health Administration -- for supposedly “seem[ing] to encourage people to 'hurry up and die,' ” and being “so fundamentally flawed that the V.A. ought to throw it out.” But the Times did not note that the organization Towey founded is selling its own competing end-of-life booklet, which Towey has reportedly pushed the Veterans Health Administration to buy.
Times reports Towey's attack on “Your Life, Your Choices”
Times quotes Towey smear that “Your Life, Your Choices” “seemed to encourage people to 'hurry up and die.' ” From the Times article by reporter Robert Pear:
On “Fox News Sunday,” H. James Towey, the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush, said the guide seemed to encourage people to “hurry up and die.”
In a bulletin last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs recommended the booklet as a tool to help veterans with “advance care planning.”
Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary of veterans affairs, said it was being revised.
But Mr. Towey said, “The document is so fundamentally flawed that the V.A. ought to throw it out.” [NY Times, 8/24/09]
Towey's organization selling its own booklet on end-of-life issues
Towey's organization is selling “Five Wishes” booklet on end-of-life issues. The organization Towey founded, Aging with Dignity, sells "Five Wishes," a booklet that, like "Your Life, Your Choices," is designed to guide people in the creation of a living will.
Huffington Post: Towey pushed government to buy his booklet. Huffington Post news editor Marcus Baram reported on August 22 that “Towey seems to have his own axe to grind” in criticizing “Your Life, Your Choices.” According to Baram:
He has repeatedly tried to get the government to spend millions to purchase his “Five Wishes” book, which is published by Aging With Dignity, a non-profit group he founded, to distribute to veterans across the country, according to sources within the VA. Towey used his influence with the White House to get a meeting with VA officials, including then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. At one meeting, Towey was informed that the VA could not act on such an unsolicited proposal without violating federal procurement regulations, according to VA sources.
Towey acknowledged that government “can buy” “Five Wishes.” On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace stated to Towey, “In the course of this controversy in the last couple of days, VA officials are suggesting that you want the government to buy and use your book.” Towey began his response by saying, “They can if they want. Millions of Americans do. But that's not what this is about.”
From the August 23 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Finally, you have been involved with end-of-life issues for years. You worked in an AIDS home back in the '80s. You have written an end-of-life document yourself called “Five Wishes,” which is widely used around the country.
In the course of this controversy in the last couple of days, VA officials are suggesting that you want the government to buy and use your book.
TOWEY: They can if they want. Millions of Americans do. But that's not what this is about. That's a not-for-profit, Aging With Dignity.
I want Americans to have access to a document that treats their life with respect, that's not pushing them to hurry up and die, that's not guilt-tripping them, that's not saying that if you can't shake the blues maybe your life's not worth living.
It's the pressure, Chris, and it's wrong for government to do it. There's so many documents out there that help families plan for and discuss end-of-life care.
People should access the one they're comfortable with, but the government should not be pushing exclusively this approach, and I think it's wrong. And I think to have an author of the assisted -- that supports assisted suicide doing it is terribly wrong.
Towey's organization also selling companion materials to “Five Wishes.” Aging with Dignity also sells several companion materials to its “Five Wishes” booklet, including a "Five Wishes Video" for $24.95 per individual copy.
Towey received more than $90,000 from Aging with Dignity in 2007. Towey is a member of Aging with Dignity's board of directors and received more than $92,000 from the organization in 2007, the latest year for which Aging with Dignity's tax disclosure form is available. Towey received $92,429 from Aging with Dignity for “consulting” services.
Towey's brother's firm received more than $50,000 from Aging with Dignity in 2007. According to Aging with Dignity's disclosure form, “Ed Towey & Associates” received $51,106 for “video production” services. The disclosure form also states that “Jim Towey and Ed Towey are brothers.”