*** 'Death Panels' Named LIE OF THE YEAR! *** by PolitiFact.com (2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner)
This site is a factual, timeline history of the Death Panel concept including documented sources of Death Panel subject matter appearing in the news during the health care reform debate of 2009. A 'who said what and when' about Death Panels. The answer to the trivia question: 'Who started the Death Panel lie?' ANSWER: 'Sarah Palin'! Sources claim Betsy Mccaughey is the original source of the Death Panels lie, but there's no doubt exactly WHICH of these women had the noteriety to thrust the concept into the public consciousness. Almost no one even knows who Mccaughey is.
Death Panels (also known as Death Councils) entered the public consciousness in 2009 when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claimed, on Facebook, President Obama's health care reform initiative would entail the creation of Death Panels. Palin was among the first prominent figures in the news to identify as a Deather.
The summer of 2009 was, indeed, The Summer of Death; and not just because many famous people like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon passed. The summer of 2009 was the inundation of Death Panels - in the news, on the streets and at Town Hall meetings. The Summer Scare of Death Panels seemed to be omnipresent. Thus, this website is devoted to the infamous concept that the government stalks the elderly with the intention of killing them.
A Death Panel (AKA Obama Death Council) is a government agency that would decide who would receive health care and who would not receive health care based on some form of standard implemented by the government. Palin worried that an institution of such Death Panels would place her own child (born with Down's Syndrome) at risk and would especially target the elderly and the infirmed (such as those with disabilities). Palin specifically used the phrase "Obama Death Panel" which immediately thrust that phrase into the spotlight. It became so commonly used in political banter, analyst Rachel Maddow of MSNBC often substantiated the phrase as "The Secret Plot to Kill Old People".
8.7.09: Sarah Palin posts on Facebook:
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. (click here to read the post)
Though Palin's Facebook post essentially made the phrase famous, Palin, herself, may have been following an article appearing in the Investors Business Daily (IBD) publication just a week before.
7.31.09: An editorial appears in the Investors Business Daily:
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K. (the United Kingdom), where the National Health Service (NHS) would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his handicap, is essentially worthless. (click here to read the editorial)
The editorial claimed renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking (Hawking has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - AKA Lou Gehrig's disease) would be subject to the Obama Death Panel due to his illness. The editorial used the NHS (the National Health Service of Britain) as the example by which to assert Hawking would not receive care. However, Hawking is a life-long resident of the United Kingdom. He responded with a public statement.
8.12.09: Hawking responds:
"I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS (National Health Service). I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived." (click here to read the response)
Though the IBD subsequently retracted the incorrect information related to Hawking, Palin's use of the phrase (along with the IBD editorial) aroused the ire of many Americans who believed Democratic health care reform would include a mandate to kill the elderly and the infirmed. Hostilities against Democratic-led health care reform continued to flourish after the Senior Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, went on record as being a Deather.
8.12.09: Grassley spoke at a Town Hall meeting in Iowa:
There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life... [and] ...from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out. And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma. ( watch the video here)
After Grassley's commentary, the Death Panel concept began to materialize almost everywhere and almost always via Republicans and/or Right-Wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The Death Panel Scare of 2009 was the major catalyst which fueled Town Hall protests in the summer of that year. Unprecedented numbers of groups and individuals descended upon all things Democrat with the intention of shouting down the speaker and making as much noise as possible. Some even compared health care reform to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. For an example, watch as a Deather confronts Congressman Barney Frankhere.
8.29.09: NEWSWEEK magazine publishes an article entitled 'The Five Biggest Lies in the Health Care Debate':
On July 16 Betsy Mccaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York and darling of the right, said on Fred Thompson's radio show that "on page 425," "congress would make it mandatory … That every five years, people in medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition." Sarah Palin coined "death panels" in an Aug. 7 facebook post.
This lie springs from a provision in the house bill to have medicare cover optional counseling on end-of-life care for any senior who requests it. This means that any patient, terminally ill or not, can request a special consultation with his or her physician about ventilators, feeding tubes, and other measures. Thus the house bill expands medicare coverage, but without forcing anyone into end-of-life counseling.
The death-panels claim nevertheless got a new lease on life when Jim Towey, director of the White House office of faith-based initiatives under George W. Bush, claimed in an Aug. 18 Wall Street Journal op-ed that a 1997 workbook from the department of veterans affairs pushes vets to "hurry up and die." In fact, the thrust of the 51-page book, which the va pulled from circulation in 2007, is letting "loved ones" and "health care providers" "know your wishes." Readers are asked to decide what they believe, including that "life is sacred and has meaning, no matter what its quality," and that "my life should be prolonged as long as it can...using any means possible." But the workbook also asks if readers "believe there are some situations in which I would not want treatments to keep me alive." Opponents of health-care reform have selectively cited this passage as evidence the government wants to kill the old and the sick. (read the article here)
The Huffington Post (a news site) had been requesting patient reports from actual people in an effort to describe how some physicians were interjecting politics into medical visits. The site published a report from a cancer patient, a 68-year-old retiree from Houston.
: The Huffington Post:
"[I kept my] mouth shut as [the] doctor rattled on: "'If you were in Sweden today they'd say you're too old. They'd tell you to go home and die.' I didn't say anything because they wouldn't have treated me." (read the report here)
Taking a cue from the IBD article a month previous, the Drudge Report (a news site) began linking to health care horror stories of the NHS of Britain. The Drudge Report often used the epicenter area of the site (font size 3, top, center, red) to blast loud headlines of panic - comparing such a reform in America to systems abroad.
Sentenced to death on the NHS
Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors have warned.
The article stated:
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.
The article went on to explain that under NHS guidelines, patients who are "dying" are "being put on continuous sedation until they pass away." The article continued, "this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn." Further, "As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care, the letter states. It has been signed palliative care experts including Professor Peter Millard, Emeritus Professor of Geriatrics, University of London, Dr Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, and four others." The expert panel is quoted in the article as saying, "Forecasting death is an inexact science. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong." (read the article here).
The Drudge Report link to the Telegraph article vanished from the website a few hours later.
CBSNews on-line published a story concerning End-Of-Life Discussions occurring at Wisconsin's largest hospital - Gundersen Lutheran. The story claims that End-Of-Life issues in that state are what prompted Sarah Palin's Death Panel remark back in August.
9.4.09: CBS News reports:
The town's biggest hospital, Gundersen Lutheran, has long been a pioneer in ensuring that the care provided to patients in their final months complies with their wishes. More recently, it has taken the lead in seeking to have Medicare compensate physicians for advising patients on end-of-life planning.
The hospital got its wish this spring when House Democrats inserted that provision into their health-care reform bill - only to see former Alaska governor Sarah Palin seize on it as she warned about "death panels" that would deny care to the elderly and the disabled. Despite widespread debunking, those warnings have led lawmakers to say they will drop the provision.
"It's really distressing," hospital official Bud Hammes said. "These things need to be addressed." (read it here).
An editorial written by Sarah Palin and published in the Wall Street Journal once again warned of Death Panels associated with health care reform.
9.8.09: Palin writes:
Now look at one way Mr. Obama wants to eliminate inefficiency and waste: He's asked Congress to create an Independent Medicare Advisory Council—an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts charged with containing Medicare costs. In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of "normal political channels," should guide decisions regarding that "huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives . . . ."
Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by—dare I say it—death panels? Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans. Working through "normal political channels," they made themselves heard, and as a result Congress will likely reject a wrong-headed proposal to authorize end-of-life counseling in this cost-cutting context. But the fact remains that the Democrats' proposals would still empower unelected bureaucrats to make decisions affecting life or death health-care matters. Such government overreaching is what we've come to expect from this administration. (read it here).
The Drudge Report linked yet another Euro-Bombastic Health-Scare Story - this time from the UK Daily Mail. The article chronicled "denial of treatment" on a premature (21 weeks) birth. Mr. Drudge continued to insist American health reform would be fashioned in the image of the British NHS and would include Death Panels.
Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday.
Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early. They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment. (here)
9.9.09: President Obama Addresses a joint session of Congress:
Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. (read the speech here)
Renowned author and physician Deepak Chopra appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 (a TV news show) among a panel of guests including Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman Mike Rogers and former Presidential Advisor David Gergen. The conversion revolved around opposition to health care reform and the fundamental nature of that opposition.
9.17.09: A transcript of an exchange between Cooper and Chopra during that broadcast:
COOPER: Deepak, there is rhetoric used against the president and then there's rhetoric used to try to define his policies in a way that often misrepresents them. The term death panels comes -- comes to mind.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR, "REINVENTING THE BODY, RESURRECTING THE SOUL": Well, you know, the debate has shifted from health reform to insurance reform. That's the first thing. President Obama's plan is humane. It's compassionate. It's for the impoverished. It's for the elderly. It's a plan for social justice. And people are now scared. By labeling him as a communist and a death panelist and socialist, you're actually getting away from the real issues.
Talk about end-of-life care, most of end-of-life care actually does not extend life. It extends suffering. It increases bills. You know, we are the only profession in -- the medical profession, the medical industry is the only industry that does not obey the laws of supply and demand in capitalism, because doctors -- you know, a doctor's pen, it has been said, is the most expensive technology. You have a minor chest -- chest discomfort because you had an argument with your wife, and you go to a doctor, and, before you know it, you have had an EKG, a stress test, a 24-hour Holter monitor, and, if you're unlucky, an angiogram and an angioplasty, which does nothing to extend lifespan, even if did you have the disease.
So, we have a big issue here. We're not looking at the $700 billion that are spent on unnecessary tests, the 2.5 million surgeries that are not required, the fact that there are four times as many lobbyists, health care lobbyists, in Washington as there are congressmen. We're getting diverted from the real issues. I think President Obama's plan is really a good one. (read the transcript here)
The Huffington Post reported Senate Republicans were mailing out surveys to their constituents invoking the concept of Death Panels associated with Democrat-led health care reform. That news site posted scans of the mailers (click the link below to see it). Other questions on the survey imply that the President's health care reform agenda includes the creation of a lottery system to determine who gets medical treatment and a quota system that based on race and age. The mailer originates from something called the "U.S. Senate Health Care Task Force" and includes a fundraising component. The mailer was commissioned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and this particular copy of the mailer is signed by Texas Senator John Cornyn. Question #23 of the mailer implies health care reform would lead to the rationing of care and could lead to the death of some individuals due to denial of treatment (the very definition of Death Panels).
9.21.09: Question #23 asks the recipient:
Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to:
23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patient's prospects are deemed not good? (see the mailer document here)
Sarah Palin spoke to an investor group in Hong Kong, China, where she claimed U.S. health care reform would involve Death Panels. At Palin's request, the speech was closed to all media. Audio of her statement was recorded and obtained by various news outlets.
9.23.09: Palin speaking in Hong Kong, China:
Recently I seem to have acquired some notoriety in an area of national debate, and all because of two words - death panels. And this is a serious term that was intended to sound a warning about the rationing that is sure to follow if big government tries to simultaneously increase health-care coverage while also claiming to decrease costs.
It’s just common sense to realize that government’s attempts to solve large problems, like the health-care challenges that we have, more often create new ones and a top down, one-size-fits-all plan will not improve the workings of a nationwide health-care system that accounts for some one-sixth of our economy.
Common sense also tells us that passing a trillion- dollar new program is not the way to reduce health-care spending. Real health-care reform is market oriented, patient centered and result driven. It would give all individuals the same tax benefit as those that get coverage through their employers and give Medicare recipients vouchers so they could buy their own coverage. (read a transcript of the speech here)
The The Washington Times published an editorial unleashing a new strain of Death Panel called Death Panels By Proxy that targets those on Medicare. This new Death Panel By Proxy claim is an indirect method of implementing Death Panels. The editorial compares health care reform in the United States to the NHS of Britain and asserts that a federal mandate based on available funds will trigger Death Panels by denying/rationing care to people using Medicare as their health provider (the elderly).
9.27.09: The Washington Times:
The offending provision is on Pages 80-81 of the unamended Baucus bill, hidden amid a lot of similar legislative mumbo-jumbo about Medicare payments to doctors. The key sentence: "Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician's resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization." Translated into plain English, it means that in any year in which a particular doctor's average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor's payments by 5 percent.
Forget results. This provision makes no account for the results of care, its quality or even its efficiency. It just says that if a doctor authorizes expensive care, no matter how successfully, the government will punish him by scrimping on what already is a low reimbursement rate for treating Medicare patients. The incentive, therefore, is for the doctor always to provide less care for his patients for fear of having his payments docked. And because no doctor will know who falls in the top 10 percent until year's end, or what total average costs will break the 10 percent threshold, the pressure will be intense to withhold care, and withhold care again, and then withhold it some more. Or at least to prescribe cheaper care, no matter how much less effective, in order to avoid the penalties. (read the editorial here)
However, as early as the morning of 10/30/09, the link to the FOX News report was unable to be retrieved. The www.foxnews.com website search function revealed multiple links when searching the phrase "Death Panel". A search of that criteria yielded dead links to the same URL that appeared on the Drudge website.
The story had mysteriously disappeared completely even from the source website - Fox News. In the late afternoon of 10/30/09, the link to the Fox News article also disappeared from the Drudge Report. The link then reappeared later in the day (in a different position on the site) while still connected to the dead url of the Fox News site. As of Sunday, 11/1/09, the link is STILL present on the Drudge Report site even though the link remains dead. As of right now (11/1/09 5pm EST), the link is still present on the Drudge Report in the 3rd column on the right-hand side. If you click the link, it leads to a blank page as it has from almost the moment it was displayed on this Drudge Report on Friday, 10/30/09.
Thankfully, various news sites, blogs and chat forums had already posted the text from the now vanished FOX News story.
10.30.09: The alleged text from the FOX News article:
WASHINGTON -- It's alive.
The Medicare end-of-life planning provision that 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said was tantamount to "death panels" for seniors is staying in the latest Democratic health care bill unveiled Thursday.
The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.
For years, federal laws and policies have encouraged Americans to think ahead about end-of-life decisions, and make their wishes known in advance through living wills and similar legal documents. But when House Democrats proposed this summer to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling, it touched off a wave of suspicion and anger. Prominent Republicans singled it out as a glaring example of government overreach.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, at the time a lead negotiator on health care legislation, told constituents at a town hall meeting they had good reason to question the proposal.
"I don't have any problem with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family," he said. "We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma." (read the text of the FOX News link here)