Tax Analysts Blog

Sarah Palin Is Wrong: We Need "Death Panels"

Posted on Mar 21, 2011

A lot of high-profile disputes like funding NPR are only distractions from the really important budget issues. Every expert will tell you that government funded health care is THE cause of our long-term budget problems. As medical technology prolongs life, we as a nation must delve deeply into issues of medical ethics and decide when the benefit of prolonging life justifies the cost. Medicare is already cutting costs with serious implications for seniors.

If it were not of such central importance to our economic future, this is a topic most of us would like to ignore. Nobody wants to think that anybody--government, doctors, family--would consider doing less than everything possible to save the life of a loved one. Politicians use our fear of death and our sqeamishness about life-and-death issues for their own advantage. Who can forget Sarah Palin's blog post on "death panels":

    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.
I don't think death panels are evil. I think they are a realistic solution to a serious problem. Of course, HOW government decides to ration health care must be dealt with in a sensitive manner and with wide input from religious leaders, medical ethicists, and the general public. But ignoring or demagoguing the issue will not make it go away. I think Palin is evil for exploiting the most basic of human fears.

Actually, it is a group of Republicans, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who are clearing the path toward rationing health care. They would substitute a voucher for the purchase of private health insurance. Of couse, then it would be insurance companies who would be deciding life and death issues using cost benefit analysis. But that does not change the fact that we sometimes must "pull the plug" on the elderly who are dependent on the government. Sorry to sound so heartless, but can we deny this economic reality?

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