I received this e-mail from the Pennsylvania Family Institute yesterday. We, as responsible citizens of this great nation, must keep apprised of the policies our government representatives are enacting. The lives of our loved ones may depend on it!
Personally, I do not usually see eye-to-eye with Senator Specter, but in this case, bravo to the Senator. I will make certain to e-mail him in order to express my agreement.
Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, Matthew 10:16
By Gary Palmer
Currently, there are just over 2,000,000 U.S. World War II veterans still living. Sadly, they die at the rate of more than 5,000 per week which means that by the end of September 2010, we’ll have just over 1,760,000 still with us. Apparently, some people at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) think they aren’t dying fast enough.
In an August 18, 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal, Jim Towey shows that the VA has provided more evidence that a government-run health care system will subject people to rationing and subtly encourage them to end their lives as a means of holding down costs. Towey, the former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (2002–2006), wrote that the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care revived a 52-page end-of-life planning document last year entitled “Your Life, Your Choices” which was originally implemented during the Clinton Administration.
The booklet was authored by Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, whose “… interests and expertise pertain to empirical research in clinical ethics (especially end-of-life care) and organizational ethics.” According to his bio, Pearlman’s “ … research has explored euthanasia, the role of quality of life in decision-making, the validity of life-sustaining treatment preferences, medical futility, advance care planning, physician-assisted suicide, and relief of patient suffering.”
Pearlman was an advocate for physician-assisted suicide in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Vacco v. Quill. Despite Pearlman’s expert opinion, the Court ruled that there is no constitutional “right to die” upholding New York’s law against physician-assisted suicide. It should be noted that the Court’s decision was unanimous; apparently, even the Court’s hard-core liberals are against physician-assisted suicide.
Towey also wrote that “Your Life, Your Choices” was promoted to veterans in 1997 as a “living will” throughout the VA’s national network of hospitals and nursing homes. He said the booklet’s end-of-life choices are presented in a way that steers veterans to conclude whether or not their lives are worth living. One worksheet lists various possibilities such as confinement to a nursing home or wheelchair or an inability “to shake the blues” and guilt-inducing scenarios such as the inability to care for their families or becoming an emotional or financial burden on their families.
An updated version was proposed for reintroduction in 2008. After the Bush Administration evaluated the booklet’s treatment of complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Now, under the Obama Administration, the VA has brought it back.
In his article, Towey disclosed that the VA issued a directive in July, 2009 to all primary care physicians instructing them to present advance care planning options to all VA patients and to refer them to “Your Life, Your Choices.” The directive targeted all VA patients, not just those of advanced age and debilitating condition. It even included severely wounded veterans from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
On August 23 in an interview with Fox News Sunday, Towey said that “Your Life, Your Choices” makes aged and severely injured veterans feel like a burden and encourages them to die.
Towey’s article generated a lot of attention among the American public who are already concerned about end-of-life panels mandated in the health care reform bill. He also got the attention of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) who called for the suspension of the booklet’s use and has called for immediate hearings. As a result of the controversy about the booklet, the VA pulled “Your Life, Your Choices” from its website.
It is unconscionable that American men and women who have answered the nation’s call to arms and suffered the horrors and ravages of war would return home to be encouraged to die just to save a few dollars. But it should not be surprising in light of the end-of-life counseling panels, death panels as some have called them, which target the elderly in the health care reform bill.
As Towey points out, “When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?”
Gary Palmer, an associated scholar of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.
For Publication: The following opinion-editorial article is available for publication.
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