Mrs. Palin has been widely panned by independent fact-checking groups for her talk of “death panels.” Her attacks on Dr. Emanuel have led to charges that he is advocating euthanasia.
Dr. Emanuel, who has a track record of arguing against euthanasia, said the charges are “completely off the wall” and “can only be held by people who willfully don’t read, jump to conclusions without checking the facts, or are completely distorting my record for ulterior motives.”
“The idea that I would be out there portrayed as somehow wanting to knock people off, just is, I mean, that is completely surreal and Orwellian.”
Art Caplan, who heads the University of Pennsylvania’s bioethics center, called the attack ironic.
“You’ve got a guy who has been an outspoken critic of euthanasia getting dragged around as a proponent, which is just not true. And he’s probably got a more market orientation in his personal view of paying for health care than others,” Mr. Caplan said.
Mrs. Palin derives the idea of “death panels” from a provision in a bill under consideration in the House that would give doctors financial incentives to give counseling sessions on end-of-life care to older patients. Mrs. Palin’s charge is that while the sessions are technically voluntary, physicians can and will initiate the conversation and senior citizens will be pressured to accept “minimal end-of-life care” because the sessions are “part of a bill whose stated purpose is ‘to reduce the growth in health care spending.’ ”
Mr. Gingrich, who is considered even by critics to be deeply knowledgeable on policy issues, has defended the statements made by Mrs. Palin, a potential rival for the 2012 Republican nomination to run for president against Mr. Obama.
Mr. Gingrich thinks that some of the new bureaucracy created by current versions of health care legislation, combined with the explosion of another $1 trillion or so in government spending, will lead to greater government control of all health care. Once that happens, he said, the thinking expressed by Dr. Emanuel that quantifies the value of certain human lives over others will permeate the decision-making process.
“These bills establish many agencies, commissions and offices with substantial power to redefine health care,” Mr. Gingrich said in a statement e-mailed by a spokesman. “As health care costs continue to rise, the government will look for ways to save money. It is reasonable to expect that many of the people this administration would appoint to these new government bodies would be sympathetic to the views described by Dr. Emanuel.”
The charges of rationing, or concerns about his language in journal articles, Dr. Emanuel said, is somewhat understandable given that he was “writing really for political philosophers, and for the average person it’s not what they’re used to reading, even if they’ve had a good liberal education.”
Nonetheless, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and a practicing physician, said the senator remains “concerned about the rationing provisions in the House and Senate bills.”
Coburn spokesman John Hart said: “On three different occasions during the [Senate Health, Education and Labor and Pensions] committee markup, Dr. Coburn and other Republicans attempted to insert language prohibiting rationing.
“All three amendments were voted down, which suggests that Democrats do, in fact, want to preserve the ability to ration care,” Mr. Hart said.
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