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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Obama gives in to Sarah Palin's dishonesty

By Richard Cohen

All over Washington this week were the thrilling sounds of democracy at work -- the speeches of incoming and outgoing officials, the emotional swearing in ceremonies, the weeping of Boehner the Damp, the solid crack of the gavel being brought down and, less thrillingly, the peep-peep of a chicken as the Obama White House reversed itself on end-of-life counseling. The Big Lie won once again.

The lie is that these sessions constitute "death panels." This was the felicitous phrase of Sarah Palin's, such an egregious lie that even the Wall Street Journal had to call it "sensationalistic" -- cleverly designed to "illustrate a larger truth about a world of finite recourse and infinite entitlement programs." My foot.

Spare me, spare us all, larger truths. The smaller truth here did not exist at all. End-of-life counseling is both ordinary and prudent and can save the grieving and confused much agony. In fact, such planning has always been a part of what is known as the "Welcome to Medicare" visit, the first made to the doctor after becoming eligible for the program. The so-called death panels would have been included in the new annual checkup. This made sense. An 85-year-old needs to hear what a 65-year-old forgot.

After the New York Times reported that the so-called death panels were back in the law -- this time by regulation after having been eliminated from the bill -- the White House moved to remove them. This was a signal act of political cowardice as well as bad public policy that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs attributed to the lack of "adequate space" for the public to comment on "these kind of thing." Yes, but "these kinds of things" were debated to a fare-thee-well at the time Palin uttered her utter lie and, before that, in the car on the way back from grandma's house. Gibbs may be leaving the White House because he read his own words and was sickened.

As an act of kindness, as an act of charity, as an act of sheer humanity, end of life counseling is way up there. Death comes to us all -- God, I hate writing those words -- and it is easy to look away, to put off all sorts of planning for another day. But people need to hear the facts, their options, the costs and the benefits and make their own decisions. Nothing in the law allows the government to coerce patients into any decision. Everything about the law encourages people to make their own decisions. President Obama should have stuck to his guns on this one. He didn't, once again uttering a familiar battle cry: Peep-peep. The sound of the chicken was heard throughout the land.

By Richard Cohen  | January 6, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Cohen  | Tags:  Richard Cohen  
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Comments

It's puzzling that Ms. Palin has been so quiet regarding actual, real life Republican death panels in Arizona.
As of today, two people have died due to their budget concerns regarding transplants.
Why do I think that if John McCain or perhaps Ms. Palins daughter, who just bought a house in Arizona, needed a transplant, all of a sudden it wouldn't be a problem, nor any question asked.
Hey Palin.......so what do you have to comment on the real death panels led by Republicans?

Posted by: freund3 | January 6, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The White House promised death panels would never be a part of Obamacare. Gets the votes for it. Then during the holidays, Dr. Donald Berwick (who enjoyed a recess appointment, which allowed him to avoid congressional hearings) reinstates it in the legislation in a sneaky fashion (the same end-of-life provision that Congress rejected).

AND YOU SPEAK OF PALIN'S DISHONESTY?

What a joke!

Posted by: skillssss | January 6, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I live in Switzerland with mandated health insurance but controlled prices. My doctor doesn't understand the controversy. He has this conversation with all his patients over 50 and with those that are terminally ill. No big thing. I simple told him Americans are primitive and barbaric. It should be no big deal.

Posted by: DLN1 | January 6, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

You are absolutely right, Mr Cohen.... and wrong. Obama looked at this and at his priorities and rightly decided that wasting another minute of time or iota of political capital on this issue would be adverse to the other and bigger fish he needs to fry. I'm sure it irked him as much to capitulate on this as it irks us to see it done, but no issue stands alone and of itself. One reason Obama was so successful in the last congress is that he always keeps the bigger picture in mind. Much as he did with DADT, I suspect that the end of life couseling will also have it's day in due course and at the proper time, after the public has had its adequate space to discuss the thing to death.

Posted by: truthwillout | January 6, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

DLN- Im sure the US could learn much from your government's management of 8 million people (dripping with sarcasm).

Posted by: mobrien83 | January 6, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Republican hack skillssss....[are you paid by the word, or hour, to blog for them?]

Like a true Republican you skew the real facts, and obfuscate the truth. I did not say that Ms. Palin was being dishonest at all, I commented on her silence regarding the death panels since the Republicans have started them up in Arizona.
She sure was concerned when it was a Democratic idea. Now that it is a Republican reality, why is she not as vocal? Two souls are now dead because of Arizona Republican policy.
That is the truth.
Maybe you should torture me to make me see it your way? Oh right, that's not in the US Constitution, only the Republican constitution!

Posted by: freund3 | January 6, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

It's patently ludicrous to believe that the content of any discussion between a patient and physician should be either prohibited or mandated by law, with the exception of warnings.

Posted by: Ralphinjersey | January 6, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

If you look through the record of statements by Palin and Obama, it is plain that Obama is the liar, not Palin..

You admit that these Death Panels are meant to encourage people to give up on expensive end-of-life care, but then say it is a total lie to call them what they are:
The State paying doctors to encourage old people to die.
No coercion? Not yet.
This is the mother of all slippery slopes, with the State getting further involved in allocating medical care based on "efficiency".
If you can't see how scary that is, and what a terrible direction to go, and you can't understand why people who care about these things use the phrase Death Panels,...
well, you probably also believe in a State that decides all based on the latest "study" by "experts", and don't care what the consequences are, as long as your ideology wins

Posted by: johnL1 | January 6, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

@johnL1 wrote:
"The State paying doctors to encourage old people to die."
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And that is the fallacy in a nutshell. It is not encouraging anyone to do anything. It is a paying a doctor to discuss a 'guaranteed to happen' event with a patient BEFORE that event happens. It is talking with a not yet 'old' person on what their options are when they become 'old' or are no longer in control of their faculties.
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It is in effect a 'living will' of sorts and has been going on for decades under Medicare. You don't think the fact that no one has been 'encouraged to die' under Medicare in that time might be a sign that this is an utter lie by Ms Palin and the right wing?

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Weeper of the House

Posted by: brickerd | January 6, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Obama Democrats are sensitive about Death Panels ?

Consider:

PAUL KRUGMAN: "You know what we need to balance the budget? Death Panels! And sales taxes." (Nov. 15th 2010)

Palin was attacked by Paul among others… for suggesting Obamacare equaled “death panels”… now Nobel Prize-winning economist of BIG-SPENDING and BIG Gov. supports… yes.. death panels !!

Who knew ?

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 6, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I also find it interesting that Sarah Palin has remained silent regarding the refusal of transplants resulting in two deaths In Arizona. Why hasn't she been tweeting about their governor imposed death panels? Is it because she has attained a modicum of intelligence, or is she just a hypocrite?

Posted by: Lynmarbro | January 6, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This is horrible gutlessness. I went to many MD visits with my 80+ mother and her PCP discussed this with her many times in GEORGE W. BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION!!!

It prompted discussions between us, also.

What is wrong with this WH that it STILL has not learned that educating the public with the facts is STILL missing?

Hey, skillssss, are you really that dimwitted or just an habitual liar?

Posted by: edismae | January 6, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

This had nothing to do with Palin or the "Death Panels" lie.
The Dems failed to include the change in the version released for public opinion. Then they included the change in the final regulations. That is not allowed.
The procedures required by law were not followed.
I am the last one to want the Republicans to gain a victory, but the Obama administration failed here in a very obvious way. It wouldn't hurt if a few non-conservative pundits would admit this.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | January 6, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

My understanding is that Obama merely deleted mention of end-of-life counseling in the doctors' guidelines. Doctors can still "bill" for doing end-of-life counseling. My question is, why do doctors get paid for counseling on certain topics? What other topic do they get paid to discuss? The whole thing is just a boon for doctors. The American Medical Association lobby is certainly behind this.

As for Obama: he knows that nobody will ever ask him or his family to cut their lives short to save taxpayer money!

Posted by: tina5 | January 6, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

@pvilso24 wrote:
...........
"Consider:

PAUL KRUGMAN: "You know what we need to balance the budget? Death Panels! And sales taxes." (Nov. 15th 2010)
...........

And in an article on that roundtable www.newsbusters.org (a site that uses the tag line 'Exposing and combating liberal media bias' - hardly a sympathetic voice to liberas me thinks) said:
"Now, to be sure, Krugman was likely being derisive using that term."
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In other words, even a conservative outlet knows he's being facetious about it.
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The article links to a 2007 quote by Robert Reich (very liberal) saying what a purely fantasy candidate being honest would say about health care: we will need to let old people die to balance the budget.
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The two *very* key points here:
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1. This is *already* going on in the current system. Except now it's only so that insurance executives can line their pockets.
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2. We aren't talking about the type of decisions being made in Arizona today, that are literally saying to people 'we wont help you' and letting them die. The 'death panels' here are simply what insurance will and will not cover. If it is covered, you get the care; period. No budget issues, no nothing. If it isn't covered, because the treatment doesn't show that it is worth the expenditures, then it would be up to the individual to pay for it.
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#2 is already covered by #1.
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This is a NON-ISSUE since it is ALREADY happening today before any 'Obamacare' law goes into effect.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what Sarah Big Mouth Palin says? She's nothing but an attention freak and a LIAR. That woman never opens her mouth but what she lies. Barbara Bush was right....Sarah Palin should stay in Alaska.

Posted by: CorrineK | January 6, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The term death panel is not a lie. You the liberal do not like it, so you call it a lie. If panel of bureaucrats are to decide on matters of life and death, then "death panel" is certainly an appropriate term. And did you know the death panels were NOT in the final Obamacare bill, that NYT recommended using death panels by this name, and later Obama added them to the law behind closed doors?

No Mr. Cohen, if there was any lying, and I am not saying there was (only liberals love this word), it was done by Obama not Palin. You got the situation all backwards.

End of life counseling is ordinary and prudent? Of course, but NOT by any government official. The last thing we want this government to do is weigh in on matters of individual's life and death. Of course the patient and relatives and doctors will discuss it as they have been doing for centuries, but for government to pay the doctor to do this is totally ridiculous.

Your column illustrates yet again the incessant attempts by liberals to grab more power by the government and away from the people. When you write this stuff, Mr. Cohen, consider your words reaching your choir. In general, the population of ordinary middle class pays no attention to them.

Posted by: rimantas1 | January 6, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Caribou Barbie just doesn't understand that if she has a living will or advance directive directing that doctors use any means necessary to keep her alive, that's exactly what will happen. If she doesn't, then it's up to the former "First Dude." This is not a decision I'd want anyone who had been known by that name making for me.

Posted by: amstphd | January 6, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

That self-serving twit will still tweet. It's not like she will even set the record straight. This sort of "victory" against common sense will only embolden her. Shame on Obama for not standing to her. Nobody elected her to any office except the one she quit.

Posted by: SarahBB | January 6, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Just because you don't read about it in the Washington Post....doesn't mean it aint so...

Lies, damn lies and death panels
Obamacare was for them before it was against them (and back again)

"Those death panels that the White House first promised were never a part of Obamacare and then promised had been removed from Obamacare are back in Obamacare, but the White House promises us it's nothing new. If this doesn't trouble you, I'll make a promise of my own: When your mother gets caught in the cross hairs, it will."

"As if on cue, Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama's choice as Medicare chief, in a profoundly arrogant move, reinstated, effective this week, the very end-of-life provision that Congress rejected, but with an accelerated payment scheme that effectively will result in even more elderly Americans being nudged to forgo medical care. Sidestepping Americans and their representatives in Congress is nothing new for Dr. Berwick. You'll recall, he enjoyed a recess appointment, which allowed him to avoid congressional hearings that would have forced him to defend his deeply troubling statements: He's "romantic" about the British government-run health system, he explicitly favors health care rationing, he thinks it's the role of the health care system to redistribute wealth, and, perhaps most troubling of all, he thinks the once inviolable doctor-patient relationship is "no longer tenable" without government control."

What part did they get wrong?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/30/lies-damn-lies-and-death-panels/

The audacity of Cohen to suggest the take-away from this debacle is the dishonesty of Palin is outrageous.

Perhaps the liberal thought police and their selective reporting is handicapping your ability to truly understand the facts and intelligently debate them without the name calling. I guess when your spin masters and social engineers are no longer effective, its time to bring out the character assassins. Grow up!

Posted by: skillssss | January 6, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

@rimantas1:
There are no panels which decide on life or death. Never were. There only panels which decide on what treatments for which to provide coverage.
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Doctors have been doing it for 'centuries' as you say when it is a covered activity by the insurance the individual in question. Not all insurance companies provide this coverage. Also when the individual can afford the doctors services when it is not covered.
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The 'Obamacare' language is simply listing this as something that is 'covered'. Nothing more.
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The panels that determine what is and isn't covered already exists in private insurance companies and will so exist in the the 'Obamacare' law. Nothing has changed there.
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Who do you want in charge of what you can get? A CEO with a vested interest in giving you as little as possible? or a gov't in which you actually have a representative say?

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Transplants fall outside death panel discussions in that they are extraordinary and limited, nor can these two deaths be directly connected to the denial of the transplants. There has never been an unlimited supply of money for transplants.

Posted by: ronjaboy | January 6, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

How is counseling older people on end-of-life any different from having a living will, which I have had for 30 years? It only makes sense--if I'm 90 years old and my body doesn't work anymore--why should I continue to live.

Posted by: mbrumble | January 6, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The thing is, Gov. Sarah Palin was right about death pane;s. Everbody knows it. Honest people admit it.

Posted by: bubbasouth | January 6, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

To rpixley:
True, only panels which decide if tax money will be paid to doctors for discussing life and death. I wouldn't call it a death panel either, but it does sound rather approrpriate, and certainly not a lie which Cohen maintains in his article.

True again, discussion of life and death for patients near death was part and parcel of doctor's visit, which was covered by insurance companies. Notice however, all was among private parties: patient, relatives, minister (perhaps), insurance company, and doctor(s). That's how we lived up to now. Of course, decisions on person's health and exchanges of money were involved, and seeing this, the liberal government decided they want a greater piece of the action, and now "crashed the party", so to speak. It's the increase in government's role I object to. (Notice I said "increase": they already had a foot in the door via medicare).

But in sum, my ire was directed at Cohen for demeaning Palin again, and talking as if he knows all and we should just bow and follow his teachings. It is time the folks spoke up to the liberal press and tell them off. That was my only point.

Posted by: rimantas1 | January 6, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The dishonest one here is OBAMA. He lies all the time. In fact, he is a pathological liar.

Obama even has most of the WaPo writers lying, too. Is Soros also paying you at WaPo? It would seem like it.

Obama could not even shine Palin's shoes!!

Posted by: annnort | January 6, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Mr President: You have caved in again. We thinking people know there is no such thing as a death panel. You let Palin have her way after all. STOP THE RUMORS - DON'T TAKE OUT THE END OF LIFE INFORMATION.
I'm a senior citizen and would like all the information given to me about what to do next.

Posted by: Tonisongbird34 | January 6, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm always amused by the argument of scale or size, one that states a country like Switzerland's health insurance cannot not be replicated here in the US due to the size of the population. Then lets handle it on a state or regional level.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE7DD123BF93AA25756C0A965958260

Maybe it's a simple answer but it seems a simple argument.

Posted by: thomp | January 6, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

End of life couseling is already law in the United States. It was passed with a bi-partisan vote by congress while George W. Bush was president. In a sweeping bill concerning health matters, the Health Care Reform bill passed by the 111th congress, it would have been rational to include a reference to end-of-life counseling, but ultimately, it is redundant.

Posted by: marks1940 | January 6, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

This excellent column by Richard Cohen should be required reading in every civics and political science class in the country.

Posted by: Rocketman4 | January 6, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

@ronjaboy:
Actually the death's can be directly attributed the Arizona gov's decision. The people already *had* organs lined up for them. Because of the cut off of funding the doctors/hospitals couldn't be paid and those organs when to people who had other insurance that would pay.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

As an aside, speaking of the "emotional swearing in ceremonies" perhaps some credibility could be restored for our elected politicians by restoring a profound tradition of 3000 years ago. In Genesis 24, Abraham asks his senior servant to "touch him [Abraham] between his thighs", that is, to touch his testicals and swear to faithfully find a bride for his son Isaac in a foreign land. Personally, I'd have more faith in our leadership if, say, President Obama is re-elected in 2012 and takes the oath of office with his right hand on the Bible and his left hand on John Robert's testicals. And wouldn't the morale of TSA workers be more robust today had Janet Napolitano taken her oath with one hand on Barack Obama's testicals? Testicals, testify, testimony, etc. it's all about great traditions in Western Civilization.

Posted by: johnson0572 | January 6, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

@rimantas1:
I appreciate the well thought and reasoned response.
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The lie here is that Ms. Palin did in fact claim that the government would employ a 'means test' on people before they could receive treatment. That is what she said were the death panels in the law. And that is a direct and outright lie. Whether by sheer ignorance or malice we won't likely ever know, but it still is an outright falsehood.
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You may rightfully object to the government providing funding for private insurance coverage for individuals. However, this doesn't change *your* current insurance. It is still provided by and through your current private insurer. If that insurer wishes to participate in the exchanges being set up, then they have to abide by the rules in this legislation.
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Is that seriously something so bad to you?

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Palin the idiot strikes again...

Posted by: AverageJane | January 6, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

johnL1, You know you lied, and won't admit it. Fine. Just know that Arizona's repubican governor made 2 people die instead of providing the transplants they desperately needed. Repubicans and teabaggers might want to say Obama wants death panels, but it's the repubicans who are actually the ones creating them.

Posted by: fmamstyle | January 6, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

It is unfortunate that Sarah Palin has been and continues to be a disgrace upon our national landscape. The only worse individual I can imagine is that infamous governor of Arizona, now with 2 reported deaths from people denied organ transplants under Medicaid. Barbaric

Posted by: fairness3 | January 6, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

President gives an inch to the idealistic idiots on the right, as in this example but eventually he takes a mile from them. Look how he smashed the republicans in the lame duck congress, he gave into the tax cuts and got:
tax cuts for the rest of us.
9-11 responders bill passed
START Treaty and so on......

Yeah sometimes its good to lets fools think they won and than show em' who has the real victories in the end...

Posted by: Realistic5 | January 6, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

As a nurse who has to deal with dying on a daily basis I welcome an honest open conversation about death. Too many times people are led to believe that, science is going to save them, when in reality all it does is prolong the inevitable along with excruciating pain that accompanies many causes of death. We may have come along way to finding cures for common illnesses but we haven't even begun to reach God's powers yet. "Truth Panels" would be a good place to start.

Posted by: AverageJane | January 6, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@Realistic5:
You are correct that significantly more was gained than just tax cuts for the middle class in the lame duck session. I think that most objections are that Reid waited until the lame duck session to bring this stuff up.
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If the GOP wants to vote down even opening debate on 9/11 responders, wouldn't that be a good thing to have gotten down on paper *before* the election?
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It's a tough call to say if more or less would have gotten done had a more direct approach been used. In the end it just feels like the bullies (GOP) were able to get what they wanted; the other issues we 'got' should have been easy to get on their own. That just grates on me and I suspect much of the 'left' that was up in arms about the tax cut 'compromise'.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Here in California (and I'm betting in every state of the Union) we have had death panels since the first insurance company was begun. It used to be kept quiet but unfortunately not everyone is a frightened Republican. Death panels exist and call themselves insurance companies. They routinely cancel anyone who gets sick, tells those insured what treatment they can have and more importantly what treatment they CAN'T have. One highly publicized death was a 17 year old who had doctors and specialists tell the insurance company that the treatment the company would cover would not cure the girl, their method of treatment (transplant) gave her a fighting chance to survive. The insurance company refused saying it was too expensive. Media, pressure to defend in court the insurance company finally said OK do the transplant. In the six months it took to move them the girl died hours after the death panel insurance company gave in.

This bill never brought in "government" - it simply paid doctors for giving their advice. All this panic when panels already exist they just call themselves "businessmen". Check out Wendell Potter on the Internet - the man was a highly paid insurance executive until he realized just what he had become.

Posted by: Lemon7221 | January 6, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Like virtually everything else associated with Palin, this is all drama and no substance. Doctors have always discussed end-of-life issues with their patients, and they always will, whether Medicare specifically pays them for it or not. It's part of their job. Furthermore, not every patient will get everything that she wants, particularly when she is depending on someone else to pay for it. Drama queen Palin can call that a 'death panel' if she wants, but it's just the reality of medical care. There are lots of real issues in medical care that should be discussed. Why do we waste time on her ridiculous antics?

Posted by: DaveHarris | January 6, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

You folks criticizing the president for dropping the controversial clause seem to forget one big thing: Healthcare overhaul is not about benefiting President Obama. He wants the plans to go forward for those who need the programs...this is why he removed presumed obstacles to its success.
STOP looking at programs and legislations proposed by the president as something he has a stake in to receive material gain...It is not about him, his lifestyle will be quite alright.

Posted by: october30 | January 6, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Liberals, where is the tipping point when Big Government becomes Big Brother? When Big Government lurches over the line and goes all totalitarian on us?

You don't know. I don't know. Nobody knows. The only thing we know is that we don't want to find out, because we also know that while you can get there from here, you can't get back here from there.

Palin says we should be allowed to smoke weed in our homes; BiteMe, O's used-car-salesman VP says weed is a dangerous drug.

Who's progressive and who's repressive in 2010?

Posted by: tom75 | January 6, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Any conservative who has felt held captive by progressives over the past two years felt the relief of the midterm elections and, along with the new Speaker of the House, may have shed a tear as he was sworn in. I know I did and it felt great.

Americans may never feel comfortable with the government promoting "end of life planning". Patient's rights should be to make that move on their own when the time is right. An outsider should not be in the position to judge when that time is right for a family and as we all know, doctors can be wrong.

Atop of it all, is paying doctors for conducting the dialog. What? Seems like on the form for the doctor's visit, a box would be checked and a short statement about what was said would be written down. The entire length of time, perhaps ten seconds or perhaps ten minutes with no real medical services rendered. Perhaps it is best that doctor's refer patients to their minister, preacher, priest or neutral chapel for a solution, if they are able to make one. However, family will be making the choice or a power of attorney for patients who do not have family. In that case, is it the doctor's responsibility to do anything more than provide the facts and the alternatives?

For the majority of people who have not had a family member grow ill with memory destructive disease, they may feel it is a waste to keep these people alive when they are caught in a loop of routine unable to tell you where they are or who just came to visit them, but there is a much higher moral concern to be acknowledged. First, if you have cared for these individuals, you will first realize that the love their immediate family members have for them is real, for most and it is the resulting care they receive from health care providers due to that love that keeps them alive and sheltered. As you would suspect, without the love, they die. Second, that exact care speaks volumes to the ethical and moral values of our society. Why head in the opposite direction. For Hitler, in order to gear up to a "war-time economy", he began erasing the lives of the elderly who were diseased and the handicapped along with the mentally ill, both long and short-term, before he focused on the Jews. Are death these death squads in our government the first step toward that end? So it seems, thwarting this measure, which seems innocent now, may change if our economy continues to slump or we face a more ready challenge in national defense. It would be better to think of the repeal of health care as more of a repudiation of government structure than anything else. One could easily believe that the structure would now be in place to move forward with evil as opposed to promoting the common welfare.

Posted by: Chris561_561 | January 6, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

End of life planning just makes good sense. If you want your doctor and loved ones to know what do do if you are not able to speak for yourself, then you should express your wishes in a living will.
I worked in admitting in an emergency room for a couple of years. As part of the admissions process I had to ask patients if they had a living will and if they would like to have one. It was not a happy process for someone who had not considered the possibility of having a serious illness before entering the emergency room. On the other hand patients who had considered a living will often brought one with them.
Sooner or later all of us will come to the end of our lives. Some of us will be in need of a decision as to whether to keep us on life support or to let us go. Wouldn't it be better to have our wishes be known and followed than to have our doctor and family guessing and fighting about what to do

Posted by: OhMy | January 6, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@tom75:
Where's the line between unfettered freedom and anarchy? Some of 'us' really don't want to find that out either.
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I suspect you'll find that most 'liberals' (and conservatives and independents and and and...) actually respond to well reasoned arguments and debates. The Health Care debate offered by the GOP was not well reasoned in any sense of the word.
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One indisputable fact is that 30 million people didn't have health insurance; 1 in 10 people in this country. If you don't like the health care law that's perfectly fine.
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But do come up with another solution that provides the same level of care to the same number of people before you start saying this must be repealed. The status quo wasn't sustainable.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 6, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

mcbrien83, You musy be an idiot. Every major country in the world has these conversations with their doctors, as do most insured people in the U.S. But for those who are approaching end of life, or have no sense, they are labeled "death panels".

The Republicants are good at hanging slogans and labels on things they don't like, or that big business says no to. Palin and the hypocrits at Fox know this, and come up with the hollow sound bites, knowing their mindless followers will repeat them endlessly.

As was said long ago, "Make the lie big. Say it loud and often enough, and the people will believe it." Even if said by an idiot like Palin.

Posted by: COLEBRACKETT | January 6, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

America has become the land of idiocracy. Truth ain't matter. Be afraid, be very afraid for your future!

Posted by: reefer | January 6, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

skillssss sez that the end-of-life counseling is a government death panel. What about the insurance companies which deny benefits and coverage, and dump people when they get sick. These are the real death panels.

tom75 sez Palin sez weed is OK. Actually, that's the one way she could win. Actually being for freedom. Right now, all the politicians are conspiring to deprive us of freedom. Dems better watch out. I hate Palin and everything she stands for, but if she promised to legalize herb I would hold my nose and vote for her. Yes, freedom is that important. How about it TP-ers? Are you really for freedom, or do you too feel good about the government wasting a hundred billion a year to lock up cannabis smokers? That's your money going to your government to lock up your children and relatives? So do you really give a hoot about freedom": And how about the slime on the D side of the aisle? What part of freedom do you not understand?

Posted by: scientist1 | January 6, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Obama and his people watch Palin carefully because she is fearless, and has demonstrated many times she can take him down with a "tweet." Obama has a glass jaw, and he's running scared.

Posted by: tina5 | January 6, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

They weren't "death panels" people. It was counseling for end of life decisions that would be covered by insurance. Obviously, $arah has never had a loved one die of a terminal disease or she would understand the need to make these decisions in advance. Shame on her for lying and shame on Obama for taking this coverage out of the health coverage bill.

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | January 6, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Ralphinjersey, the only thing that was mandated was reimbursement for doctors' time. No patient would have had to avail themselves of this option; it would have been completely voluntary.
You people are so intent on being outraged you haven't even bothered to learn the facts. Its no wonder liberals condescend to you. Your represent yourselves as ignorant and proud.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | January 6, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Three cheers for Sarah!
Now that's cost effective advocacy of conservative positions.
Doing great work winning battles and not even taking any taxpayer money to do it.
Sarah's all green too. Didn't waste trees writing thousands of pages.
Just did it via Twitter while cooking all natural Moose stew for the kids!

Congrats Sarah for your victory.

Mr. Cohen makes one obvious mistake in his article. He says Obama should stick to his guns. Everyone knows Sarah has the guns, not Obama.


Posted by: jfv123 | January 6, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Three cheers for Sarah!
Now that's cost effective advocacy of conservative positions.
Doing great work winning battles and not even taking any taxpayer money to do it.
Sarah's all green too. Didn't waste trees writing thousands of pages.
Just did it via Twitter while cooking all natural Moose stew for the kids!

Congrats Sarah for your victory.

Mr. Cohen makes one obvious mistake in his article. He says Obama should stick to his guns. Everyone knows Sarah has the guns, not Obama.


Posted by: jfv123 | January 6, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

quick reaction-

Any discussion on a serious subject that has as its source an article by one of the wings- in this case Richard Cohen as left wing as anyone writing today is doomed to failure- a failure of reason on either side of the discussion

Where are the old fashioned newspapers- which would spend sometime and energy putting together a balanced analysis of the underlying issues- the Washington Post and the New York Times rarely attain that status these days- who else is left out there>?

Can someone with the right administrative law (need not be an attorney) background represent and provide evidence that the proposed regulation met its standards?

Posted by: 27anon72 | January 6, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

quick reaction-

Any discussion on a serious subject that has as its source an article by one of the wings- in this case Richard Cohen as left wing as anyone writing today is doomed to failure- a failure of reason on either side of the discussion

Where are the old fashioned newspapers- which would spend sometime and energy putting together a balanced analysis of the underlying issues- the Washington Post and the New York Times rarely attain that status these days- who else is left out there>?

Can someone with the right administrative law (need not be an attorney) background represent and provide evidence that the proposed regulation met its standards?

Posted by: 27anon72 | January 6, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

As someone who is in his eightieth year, may I say that i am in no need of "end of life" counseling, thank you very much. Someone who is, however, is Richard Cohen himself, who is showing signs of senile professional dementia. Maybe the editors of the Washington Post can offer him a graceful exit from his increasingly deranged columns. As for his point, can anyone say "end of life counseling" without thinking "death panel". The point is that this creepy procedure was inserted by the new health bureaurocracy after having been specifically excluded from the bill as passed. Look for more of this sort of thing as "health care reform" gets on its administrative legs.

Posted by: JamesCurrin | January 6, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

To rpixley220:

I know Palin used the term "death panels" (and later so did NYT) because no one denied it any media outlet. However, this is the first time I hear about government employing means test. How can anyone say that when no one understands what's in the bill?

Frankly, I don't care what Palin said but I do care what's in the bill. I asked many doctors, and none, not one of them, knew what's in it or how it will affect my relationship with them. So, when you or anyone else quotes Obamacare legislation, my immediate reaction is to disbelieve it - not because you are lying......no no no.......but because I haven't heard of anyone who understands it......yet.

As I said, my main beef was with Cohen.
I have none with you. You ask what I seriously dislike about this Obamacare? I could calmly list numerous items I heard about (mind you, I don't understand the bill either) over a beer, but this is not the time nor the place. Thanks for calm and rational answers. Now, to eat supper and watch some news. After all, things are about to happen in Washington.

Posted by: rimantas1 | January 6, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

quick reaction-

Any discussion on a serious subject that has as its source an article by one of the wings- in this case Richard Cohen as left wing as anyone writing today is doomed to failure- a failure of reason on either side of the discussion

Where are the old fashioned newspapers- which would spend sometime and energy putting together a balanced analysis of the underlying issues- the Washington Post and the New York Times rarely attain that status these days- who else is left out there>?

Can someone with the right administrative law (need not be an attorney) background represent and provide evidence that the proposed regulation met its standards?

Posted by: 27anon72 | January 6, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

quick reaction-

Any discussion on a serious subject that has as its source an article by one of the wings- in this case Richard Cohen as left wing as anyone writing today is doomed to failure- a failure of reason on either side of the discussion

Where are the old fashioned newspapers- which would spend sometime and energy putting together a balanced analysis of the underlying issues- the Washington Post and the New York Times rarely attain that status these days- who else is left out there>?

Can someone with the right administrative law (need not be an attorney) background represent and provide evidence that the proposed regulation met its standards?

Posted by: 27anon72 | January 6, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

rpixley220:

Pretty decent piece in yesterday's National Review: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/256349/obamacare-end-beginning-avik-roy?page=2

But I disagree that Rs didn't have any ideas, healthcarewise. This article I just posted certainly agrees with your contention that our HC system isn't sustainable as is. As do I agree. It isn't accurate to paint conservatives as the Scrooges Who Would Deny HealthCare to Tiny Tim. It's an ideological argument between two sets of honest ideas both partisan in nature. Framed that way, minus the ad hominem attacks (not yours, your post was fair and reasoned), perhaps we could move forward in congress.

But I've yet to hear a house R say he or she was allowed one New York minute to sit in committee with Pelosi's house members during the Healthcare Bill's writing and share their ideas. Ds deny that. I would tend, as a partisan, to believe the Rs and you perhaps the Ds but I'd also allow that as with most things, the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle.

That Pelosi is the ultimate divider, though, that I wouldn't question. Boehner couldn't be any worse and while Pelosi is deadly effective--like a poisonous snake--I do hope that Boehner will pave more of a middle road. We'll see. I think there's plenty of room for innovative healthcare within the free market and having recently seen my father through hospice care, I'm all in favor of death panels by any name.

Posted by: tom75 | January 6, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

For all the marbleheads--THERE ARE NO DEATH PANELS STAFFED BY ANYONE--No government bureaucrats (only insurance company types) currently make that decision by witholding treatments and/or payment.
End of life counseling was ALWAYS available; it was not covered by Medicare --the proposal to include it in the bill was to make it part of Medicare coverage--and came from a REPUBLICAN. The counseling is with your doctors NOT clerks--Palin's ignorance and dishonesty on the issue, and the trolls here who defend it are reflective of the bedrock problem in public discourse--they listen to soundbites rather than check facts, preferring to think the worst instead of thinking analytically...unglue your ears from Palin and the fat radio gasbag, and avert your gaze from the national tear duct on Faux News.

Posted by: bklyndan22 | January 6, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

This issue is so divisive I think because of the underlying ideologies in the "conservative" mindset versus the "liberal" one, that is, the idea of the "right to life" that not only applies to the abortion debate (an entirely different kettle of fish) but also end-of-life care.
I don't know if many conservatives actually believe in the caricature of a "panel" of bureaucrats in suits handing down edicts on would lives and dies, but the more easily imagined scenerio of people who have more ease of access to end of life counseling from their doctor (as this now excluded part of the bill would do) opens them up to the possible ethical issues this counseling can raise such as:
-Undue pressure from family members
-Financial concerns
-Insurance concerns
-Religious considerations

There are several issues that can come up during end of life counseling and the primary concern from the conservative point of view (please correct me if I am wrong) is the ability of these issues to be used to coerce someone into ending their life prematurely.

Yes, I know Obama is not supporting this coercion. I know this counseling already happens. I know these issues are almost always brought up in the most professional and ethical manner possible. It is still a concern that people of a more liberal mindset need to address before they reject wholesale the conservative argument.

On the other hand, as a liberal, with all due respect to my brothers on the other side of the political spectrum: Stop with this "death panel" crap. Really. Deeply. Seriously. It dumbs down a legitimate debate to the point of a "Nu-uh!" Yeah-Huh!" shouting match. Volume does not breed understanding.

Posted by: ashtar377 | January 6, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The lie is that these sessions constitute "death panels." This was the felicitous phrase of Sarah Palin's, such an egregious lie that even the Wall Street Journal had to call it "sensationalistic" -- cleverly designed to "illustrate a larger truth about a world of finite recourse and infinite entitlement programs." My foot.

Spare me, spare us all, larger truths.

==========================================

The fact that you choose to completely ignore the underlying concerns that Palin tapped into, recognized by the "Wall Street Journal," is why liberals lost (and continue to lose) the argument.

Posted by: bbface21 | January 6, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

1. The right wing crackpot governor of Arizona has committed felony capital premeditaded murder one. TWICE. That is serial murder. There are 97 more murders waiting to happen. These are not death panel advisory possible murders. They are REAL and DEAD Each one is a 14,000 dollar deliberate hit for hire by the right wing murderous crazies.

The murders have happened and the perpetrator is known. Where are the man up cajones of the concerned weakneed Arizona citizens. make a citizens arrest. Now. If you do NOT then YOU are and accessory and just as responsible.

Posted by: Modeldon_9 | January 6, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin,

Calling Sarah Palin!

Please report to the death panel at once for your determination.

Posted by: johng1 | January 6, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Death panels? When I asked my doctor about having a PSA test for prostate cancer, his reply was, "at your age it doesn't make sense as you will probably die from something else before you would die from prostate cancer." Get real. Conversations such as this happen every day, mainly dictated by what insurance companies will cover. Yeah, sorry to break the news, but we are all going to die, and if you are in your 80s you had better start planning for it because you are a day late and a dollar short. If you are in denia at that age, you are definitely in need of help.

Posted by: csintala79 | January 6, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Government run death panels is that the government knows what their budget will be for the year and if they actually want to try and keep costs down, than yes, they will have to ration care at some point. Under the current private system under which people pay into, they are covered. Sure, a doctor will explain options, but when a bureaucracy is controlling the numbers, there will be rationing. I don't think that most people feel that the government is suited to handle people's health care, especially when they can't control normal government.

Posted by: Jsuf | January 6, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Palin's representation of these things as death panels should inform Americans as to how insidious the lies are and to the lengths they will go to make things up.

Sadly, she was not alone in spreading the lies, and even worse, huge numbers of people (that apparently will never die) believed it.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | January 6, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

"Obama gives in to Sarah Palin's dishonesty"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wow Richy! You mean like closing Gitmo? She really lied about that one....and the one she told about posting all pending legislation on C-span, for we the Peoples input, before senate and congressional voting for those bills. She told a whopper when she said that the unemployment rate wouldn't rise! And the unprovable "saving or creating" THOUSANDS of jobs......so where did they go? That Sarah will say ANYTHING to grab attention!

Posted by: erodrik | January 6, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"Obama gives in to Sarah Palin's dishonesty"
Wow Richy! You mean like closing Gitmo? She really lied about that one....and the one she told about posting all pending legislation on C-span, for we the Peoples input, before senate and congressional voting for those bills. She told a whopper when she said that the unemployment rate wouldn't rise! And the unprovable "saving or creating" THOUSANDS of jobs......so where did they go? That Sarah will say ANYTHING to grab attention!

Posted by: erodrik | January 6, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Encouraging opportunities to present end of life planning (or worse, euthanasia as allowed in the sponsoring Senator's state) while restraining medical options is inappropriate whether it goes by the name "death panels" or any other name.

And, of course, Medicare and Medicaid chief Dr. Berwick is on record in supporting rationing and more extreme death panels.

Seriously you don't see any thing wrong with this? The government promises care, but only up a point and then offers a way for the patient to "voluntarily" end costing the system? That's what's happening. You really don't see anything wrong with that? You don't think that's an activity that the state shouldn't have power to influence?

Posted by: cprferry | January 6, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

This excellent column by Richard Cohen should be required reading in every civics and political science class in the country.

Posted by: Rocketman4 | January 6, 2011 3:09 PM
-------------------------------------------
...by the inept members of the Teacher's Unions who are kept employed so they can continue to contribute funds to Ohbozo and the Dims. Maybe when they're done they can cover the Separation of Powers. Because Congress specifically left this out of the bill in order that it would pass.

Posted by: PS7900 | January 6, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Among a few other things that the single term of President Obama will be known for, the coining of the phrase "premature capitulation" will stand out.

Posted by: jklfairwin | January 6, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

left-wing liberals loved Peter Singer, a Princeton philosopher who advocated the abortion of all disabled fetus. No wonder conservatives Republicans have more experiences with the disabled.

Posted by: Rockvillers | January 6, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

"I live in Switzerland with mandated health insurance but controlled prices. My doctor doesn't understand the controversy. He has this conversation with all his patients over 50 and with those that are terminally ill. No big thing. I simple told him Americans are primitive and barbaric. It should be no big deal.
Posted by: DLN1"

Forgive me if I refuse to take advice on the coercive efforts of end of life planning from a culture that remained neutral against Hitler and Mussolini. You've ceded your human rights advocate card.

Being silent as the old, poor and generally unsupported are encouraged and manipulated to kill themselves and their children makes you complicit with murder.

These people should be promoted and supported for their inherent worth and contributions to society, not encouraged to dread their existence by ridiculing their worth and exaggerating their cost.

Posted by: cprferry | January 6, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

How about Obama's dishonesty ?

Barack Obama promised that everyone healthcare insurance premiums would drop by 3000% under his healthcare reform:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY0ve87vQMs&feature=related

Yet everyone healthcare insurance premium has increased dramatically under his reign:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/01/rate-increase-by-blue-shield-of-california-prompts-criticism.html

Where is your coverage of Obama's lies ?

Washington Post caves in to Obama's dishonesty while smearing the record of a political dissident. Washington Post is not better than those journalists in Burma and China.

Posted by: skponggol | January 7, 2011 12:01 AM | Report abuse


I think that health care reform is a great idea. I have type 1 diabetes and for me to get insurance, it was a nightmare until I found "Wise Health Insurance" search for them online and you can get affordable health insurance instantly.

Posted by: keithrybicki | January 7, 2011 2:37 AM | Report abuse

The only telling thing here is Cohens observation that Sarah has always been lying about the death panels. The lemmings that hang on her every word will believe there is such a thing as death panels no matter what the evidence is. And if Sarah can't way in on Arizona's death panels then she is no one worth listening to..........It's past time to expand the war on terrorists to include extremists like Palin. She is destroying this country from within with her lies.

Posted by: fishinfool | January 7, 2011 4:01 AM | Report abuse

The only telling thing here is Cohens observation that Sarah has always been lying about the death panels. The lemmings that hang on her every word will believe there is such a thing as death panels no matter what the evidence is. And if Sarah can't way in on Arizona's death panels then she is no one worth listening to..........It's past time to expand the war on terrorists to include extremists like Palin. She is destroying this country from within with her lies.

Posted by: fishinfool | January 7, 2011 4:06 AM | Report abuse

As it stands now a Living Will is the wishes of the patient. So mom goes to the hospital, and the doc tells the family that mom needs a feeding tube or she will die. Family says yes yes do that but mom said no she did not want that, who in the end wins? The family in most cases. So in reality that will is not worth the paper it is written on. BUT mom goes to the docs he has end of life counseling doc says you know we can do this we can do that mom who is not as sharp as she used to be says okay for you see the doc is god in her eyes. Zoom to lets say 2015 new law no one can protest a living will so what mom said yes to in 2011 becomes the law no family input and there my friend you have a death panel, kinda makes you think.

Posted by: independent31 | January 7, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

But what people don't quite get is that what the republican and Sara Palin comes out and say is what is already being done but they twist it to blame the democrats. Anyone in health care knows what is going on but lay people don't.

The fact is none of this is about who does what it is about causing dissent among the America people and keeping their minds occupied and throwing out there smoke screens while they sneak into legislations what they desire. Republicans and democrats are one in the same.

Posted by: mac7 | January 8, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Goverment was trying to sell Euthanasia to the elderly in the attempt to keep their obligation costs of universal health care down, as they acheive their real goal of destroying our personal freedom. With a name like Cohen I would think you would be as frightened as I am of a Government seeking to counsel you on death. Of course you might be a Commie and not Fascist, for my part I hate Commies and Fascists. No thank you Mr. Cohen, and bravo to Obama for seeing the truth of it. HE has much more intelligence then you do sir!

Posted by: joehorn123 | January 10, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

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