Sunday, August 9, 2009

Was Sarah Palin Wrong About "Death Panels"?

Via Legal Insurrection:

Sarah Palin kicked up a fire storm when she stated that ObamaCare would result in "Death Panels." Palin took aim at Dr. Ezekial Emanual, brother of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and a top advisor to Obama on health care. Palin wrote on her Facebook page:

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.

Those criticizing Palin are ignoring Emanuel's own words. Prof. Jacobson writes:

While Emanuel does not use the term "death panel," Palin put that term in quotation marks to signify the concept of medical decisions based on the perceived societal worth of an individual, not literally a "death panel." And in so doing, Palin was true to Dr. Emanuel's concept of a system which

considers prognosis, since its aim is to achieve complete lives. A young person with
a poor prognosis has had a few life-years but lacks the potential to live a complete life. Considering prognosis forestalls the concern the disproportionately large amounts of resources will be directed to young people with poor prognoses. When the worst-off can benefit only slightly while better-off people could benefit greatly, allocating to the better-off is often justifiable....

When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.

To any reasonable person it would seem that Emanuel is saying that health care's limited resources should be reserved for those segments of society that the administration deems "most productive" to society. Emanuel is not the only White House advisor who advocates rationing based on an individual's "worth" to society as a whole. As I wrote in Obama Is Still Surrounding Himself With Shady Characters, Obama czars John Holdren and Cass Sunstein have both written extensively, ala their buddy Peter Singer, that health care should be rationed. Either Obama is surrounding himself with whom he disagrees, which is highly unlikely, or he is surrounding himself with advisers who would institute a "Death Panel".

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