In Health Care Crossfire, End-of-Life Counseling

There's a serious side to the latest GOP bogeyman.

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Debate on health care reform increasingly hinges on a provision that would provide end-of-life counseling for seniors. Sarah Palin's assertion that this would lead to an "evil" system of "death panels" has been met by scant support on the right -- few beyond Newt Gingrich and Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade backed her up -- and frenzied discrediting on the left. But some pundits are evaluating the actual merits, or lack thereof, of end-of-life counseling.

A Republican Idea
  Greg Sargent of The Plum Line noted that the whole idea of government-run end-of-life counseling started with the Republicans. Republican Senator Susan Collins "sponsored a virtually identical initiative this spring, before this became an anti-reform GOP talking point," he reported.

What About Terri Schiavo?  Digby said that Democrats should "use the Schiavo mess to their advantage on this." She explained that the case demonstrated that "people need living wills," and that "nothing is more difficult and important when you are dealing with a dying loved one." Atrios agreed. "Whatever people thought about the specifics of her case, which legal side they were on, once it went to the floor of Congress it was instantly obvious that most people were going to recoil because they got the horror of what was happening," he wrote. Jesse Taylor of political humor site Pandagon compared conservative arguments during Schiavo to today. "When Congress votes to keep your brain dead body alive over a spouse's objection, that's democracy, though," Taylor quipped.

Merit of Living Wills  Digby argued that Palin and others are scaring people away from end-of-life counseling at serious risk. "They are actually trying to get old people to be scared of having a living will and it is going to result in horrifying suffering among them and their families," she wrote. But Charles Krauthammer disagreed, saying on Fox News that livings wills aren't so crucial. "The idea that it is important to do it [end-of-life counseling] years in advance is nonsense," he said. "We heard Senator Grassley say this stuff ought to be decided when you're 50 and not when you're 80. What doctor, when he has an 80-year-old with pneumonia, will look at a document signed 30 years earlier and say he [the patient] decided he didn't want to have extra treatment, so I'll pull the plug?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.