Policy-ish

'Death Panels' Debunked: Sen. Johnny Isakson

Would changes being proposed for our health-care system actually lead to government-sponsored euthanasia?

iStockphoto.com
iStockphoto.com

Some critics come pretty close to saying so, and comments on the subject by Sarah Palin on Facebook late last week got a lot of folks fired up:

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.

To set matters straight, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein chatted with Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who has worked to expand coverage of end-of-life planning. In particular, he supports a voluntary, Medicare-covered counseling session for people with their doctors to discuss end-of-life options. The idea is to make it easier to decide in advance what sorts of care people want and don't want when facing death.

Isakson took the 'death panel' charge head on, telling Klein:

How someone could take an end-of-life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.

The rest of the Q&A is worth reading for its thorough discussion about advanced planning for the inevitable end of life.

How did Isakson become interested in the subject? "I've seen the pain and suffering in families with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury or a crippling degenerative disease become incapacitated and be kept alive under very difficult circumstances," he told Klein.

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