Kausfiles : Will You/Won't You Be on My "Death Panel"?: "THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?
I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.
LEONHARDT: So how do you - how do we deal with it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now."
And Mickey Kaus thinks calling that "independent group" a "death panel" (Sarah Palin's term) might not be such a stretch. The point, as Kaus puts it, is that "he's talking about a panel of independent experts making end-of-life recommendations in order to save costs that have an effect at an individual level."
And by "independent" he means people who don't care about your Mom--not her MD, not her family members, and not Mom herself. Right now, these decisions are largely made by the MD and the patient, with family input. But under Obama's plan, there would be a government panel making cost-benefit decisions about cases like this.
My Mom is 87 and has a chronic painful condition--osteoporosis of the spine. She just had an expensive surgical procedure done on her spine to relieve the pain of multiple stress fractures. As a result she is now back on her walker moving around. For how long? I don't know. Maybe not long. Is it worth the expense? You bet. And I don't like the idea of some "independent" people having the power to recommend denial of Medicare payment for that procedure on the basis that it isn't a good allocation of government resources, given her age and condition, so let her just take pain killers and lie in bed (until she gets pneumomia and dies). And I am completely convinced by everything Obama and others have said that this is exactly the kind of cost-benefit decision they want the government to make.
Clearly, many people are furious and terrified about this prospect. That doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that so many people stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that this is what is being proposed. Obama has said over and over that he wants to do this. He just sugar-coats it with a lot of talk about "difficult choices," and then he fobs that whole mess off onto a mysterious panel of academic and governmental experts who will make "recommendations" about life and death.
It is no wonder people are blowing their tops at these meetings with their elected representatives.