One of the most recent uproars has been the claim that the current bill under discussion includes forced euthanasia. I haven't read the entire bill--it's hard to take the time to read over a 1000 pages of a moving target--but what I have read about it does not support the claim that people will be murdered by order of a government "death panel."
However, like all overstatements aimed at creating fear and repugnance (see Miscounting the Uninsured for an example of this tactic by those in favor of ObamaCare), there is a grain of truth behind the exaggeration.
As Robert Trasinski writes in yesterday's TIA Daily (subscription required):
Jack Wakeland sent me an e-mail yesterday which captured how these "end-of-life" decisions—let's put it bluntly: decisions about dying—are currently, and properly, treated.
"When a patient is terminally ill, it is entirely proper and legitimate for doctors to push for frank discussions between the patient and his family about whether or not the medical profession can really do anything for him other than alleviate pain. It is entirely proper and legitimate for the patient to consider the financial burden he is imposing on his family if they are supporting him, or the financial loss to his family if he intends to bequeath to them what remains of his estate after his death. This kind of end-of-life cost/benefit analysis is a deeply personal issue. It is so intensely personal that one's own family members—including one's own wife or husband—may not legitimately involve themselves in the decision unless they're asked by the one who is to die."
Yet Obama is proposing to turn the subject over to a whole bunch of strangers, to an "independent group" "guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists."
And, that "independent group" is to be organized and directed by government mandates.
Such a plan is similar to the existing National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in Great Britain--also known as NICE. Charged with making decisions about which procedures and medicines the government-run National Health Service will fund, this division of the NHS evaluates medical treatments using the criteria of the Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY.) No one is "forcefully euthanized" but certain procedures and treatments are deemed insufficiently "cost effective" --which means: not worth the expenditure for society--and thus are not funded. If that treatment is something like dialysis for chronic renal failure, or certain types of expensive cancer chemotherapy, the decision not to treat is a death sentence. (See WSJ editorial "Of NICE and Men" for a few examples.)
As described in the above quote, such decisions must be made. The question is by whom and how those decisions are made: by individuals about their own lives and resource priorities, or by a government panel using the standard of what is good for society. This is not forced euthanasia, but --and here is the "grain of truth"--if a government panel is making such life and death decisions for its citizens, is that not a type of "death panel"? Even so, such emotionally charged, misleading terms do not further reasoned debate and only serve to distract from (and worse, undermine) the underlying real and valid criticisms of government mandated and government-funded health care.
There's plenty to be concerned about without such obfuscation. Health care means life and death--and we need to treat this matter rationally with the care and seriousness it deserves.