Experts Debunk Health Care Reform Bill's 'Death Panel' Rule

In La Crosse, Wis., such "end-of-life consultations" are already common because of a program put in place by a local hospital.

As a result of these consultations, La Crosse resident Ann Kottnaur said she now knows that her mother Margaret, who has Parkinson's disease and dementia, would rather die at home than in a nursing home.

"By the time we completed it, her health had started to fail," Kottnaur said of the end-of-life care consultations. "So we knew from a long time ago that that was her wish," Kottnaur said.

If La Crosse is any example, people do often choose limits on care for their final months. And the fact is, that saves money. In La Crosse, medical spending in the final year of life averages $18,000. The national average is $25,000.

'Death Panel' Discussion Spreads

The controversy apparently began when McCaughey, appearing on the radio talk program "The Fred Thompson Show" on July 16, charged that this provision in the House bill would require everyone in the Medicare system to undergo mandatory end-of-life counseling every five years.

"This is a vicious assault on elderly people, all to do what's in society's best interest, or your family's best, and cut your life short," McCaughey said.

On Friday, former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin went further, alleging that the session would amount to "death panels" and would pass judgment not only on older people's right to health care, but on others' as well.

"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," Palin wrote on her Facebook page.

And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) chimed in a week later, saying the bill would "start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law."

Melody Barnes, director of President Obama's Domestic Policy Council, denounced the Republican charges as baseless propaganda.

"We've seen these antics too many times before, when people try to scare the public," she said in a video statement on the White House web site.

"This provision will allow people to access information about getting a living will. There's absolutely nothing mandatory about this," she said."It will actually empower people… to have conversations with their doctors where they can get accurate information if they choose to do so."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who helped author the provision, echoed Barnes's comments. "There's nothing in this legislation that would force people to have consultations. There's nothing that would force them to sign advance directives. It's not going to choose a health care professional by the government and force it on them," he said on the House floor.

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