Archive for January 5th, 2011

You and I were with family and friends on Christmas Day.  We were not reading or listening to the news.  But, on December 25, the New York Times reported the following:


WASHINGTON – When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system.  But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting January 1. (Emphasis mine)

Congress and the American public explicitly rejected government funded consultations regarding end-of-life treatment.  But, very quietly on December 3, the Obama Administration issued a new regulation that authorizes Medicare to pay doctors for “end-of-life-care counseling” during patients’ annual check-ups.

Why am I concerned?  During my years on the LCMS Sanctity of Life Task Force and as president of National Lutherans For Life (LFL), I often alerted fellow Christians to the slippery slope from legalized abortion to legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.  One of the groups that caught my attention was the Hemlock Society.  A name like that sends a chill up my back.  It must have affected others in the same way because the Hemlock Society and Compassion in Dying merged to form a new group named Compassion and Choices.

Compassion and Choices successfully lobbied for physician assisted suicide (PAS) laws passed in Oregon and Washington.  Montana appears to have followed suit.  Montana’s Supreme Court ruled in December 2009 that PAS is not illegal.  But the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition says that under Montana law assisted suicide is still homicide.

What does Compassion and Choices have to do with “end-of-life-care counseling”?   Compassion and Choices is an aggressive proponent of PAS in the United States even though its pro-suicide agenda meets with resistance.  The group’s director of legal affairs pours over state constitutions, looking for those that do not address assisted suicide.  When she finds a state that does not appear to specifically bar the act in its statutes, she considers that state as allowing assisted suicide and follows up with aggressive lobbying efforts.

Wesley J. Smith, a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, respected author in the field of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and a frequent speaker at LFL conferences, says the goal of Compassion and Choices is to become “the Planned Parenthood of assisted suicide.”  He believes the group hopes to eventually reap taxpayer funding for end-of-life counseling and facilitiation of assisted suicide.

Leading disability rights groups have been working with state and community advocacy groups to fight the efforts of Compassion and Choice to nationalize assisted suicide.  They say newly disabled individuals who are struggling with the adjustments they must make could easily fall prey to a worldview that assumes they would rather be dead.

Question:  If assisted suicide becomes a socially accepted “treatment” for incontinence or physical weakness, what effect will this have on the training and ethics of medical professionals, health care policy decisions, and insurance coverage?

Compassion and Choices was involved last year in writing section 1233 of the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill signed into law March 23,  2010.    That section, questioned by some as promoting so-called “death panels,” was dropped from the bill.  Well, it may have been dropped from the bill, but as the New York Times admits, the Obama Administration has found another way to achieve its “death panel” goal: regulation.

Let me repeat: Starting January 1, 2011, Medicare is authorized to pay doctors for “end-of-life-care counseling” during patients’ annual check-ups.  This regulation inserts the federal government in end-of-life planning — not every five years as originally formulated — but annually.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I believe that every individual should discuss end-of-life decisions with loved ones, a pastor, and/or lawyer.  My husband and I each have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  We have designated each other or our sons as our voices should we not be able to speak for ourselves.  We believe that God gave us our lives and He alone should take them.

“Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you.  I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).  “Will you command Me concerning My children and the work of My hands” (45:9-11).

Question: How will Compassion and Choices, a group that promotes assisted suicide, lobby doctors as they provide “end-of-life-care counseling“?

Question: Will groups such as Compassion and Choices pressure doctors to measure their patients’ levels of productivity or practice utilitarian ethics?

Do I have reason for concern?  The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration justifies its regulation to mandate “end-of-life-care counseling” (“death panels?”) by citing British research.  The Brits make no pretense of politically rationed health care.  Under the British health care system, the government decides who should live or die based on what is called the “QALY” — Quality-Adjusted Life Year.  If I celebrate a year of perfect health, I will rate a “1.”  But, if I’m confined to a wheelchair, my life may be valued at less than half.  I’m very uncomfortable with what I’m reading about the British health care system because I don’t believe human life has a price tag.

At least, not one determined by his or her fellow humans.

(Sources: “Mercy Notes” of the LCMS World Relief and Human Care, Breakpoint, and The American Spectator, 12-28-10).  You  may also order my brochure titled “Ventilators, Feeding Tubes, and Other End-of-Life Questions” from Lutherans For Life .)

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