- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

VA death book?

First “death panels,” now a “death book.”

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit has been blogging about the Department of Veteran Affairs using an end-of-life guide that “asks veterans to decide whether their own life would be ‘not worth living’ under certain guilt-inducing scenarios.”

According to the original report in the Wall Street Journal, “bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’ It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’”

Mr. Hoft put up a link to the guide, which identifies itself on its title page as “Planning for Future Medical Decisions: How to Prepare a Personalized Living Will.” But on page 21, it asks respondents to tick off boxes to answer the question, “What makes your life worth living?”


Veterans are asked about 18 medical scenarios (and given a blank space to add a 19th) and given the options of answering that life like this would be “difficult but acceptable,” “worth living but just barely,” “not worth living” and “can’t answer now.”

Later, Mr. Hoft reported that “Sen. Arlen Specter [Pennsylvania Democrat] wants a hearing into why the VA is still using the end-of-life guide ‘Your Life, Your Choices,’ the so-called ‘Death Book’ for Veterans,” and put up a link to the Fox News interview where Mr. Specter, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said he would call for a hearing.

“The document itself raises a lot of questions. … Consideration ought to be given right now to suspending it pending hearings before the Veterans Committee in the Senate,” Mr. Specter said. “There ought not be suggestions to encourage people to make decisions that end life.”

Under the state

Pro-life and religious sites were abuzz last week with news about the latest marginalization of Christians in a country that many liberals often cite as an ideal of social policy.

“The Swedish Association for Home Education (ROHUS) is asking for support from the international community to stop an attempt by the Swedish government to outlaw home-schooling for religious purposes,” reported Hilary White at Lifesitenews.com. “The government’s explanation of the draft law says, ‘There is no need for the law to offer the possibility of home-schooling because of religious or philosophical reasons in the family.’”

The Swedish government, the group says, “is making home-schooling illegal, for religious or philosophical reasons, thus showing off its worst totalitarian socialist roots,” ROHUS said in its statement. “As Sweden is often seen as the great social utopia of the world, it is important for Swedish home-schoolers to win this battle. Any and all help is appreciated immeasurably.”

“The group noted the irony that the law, ostensibly based on the European Convention on Human Rights, proposes to outlaw home-schooling on religious or philosophical grounds. Article 9 of the Convention guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to manifest a religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance,” Ms. White wrote.

The draft law was presented in June, and likely will go before Parliament in spring 2010, designed to take effect in 2011.

“How many of us think of Sweden as being a place where personal freedom doesnt exist?” asked conservative blogger Jason A. Clark at his self-named site. “Having complete control over the education of the youngest members of the state is always an integral part of controlling a population. The 20th century is littered with examples of state-run indoctrination of the youth.

“Believe it or not, this is exactly the sort of thing many people want to do here in the U.S.”

Even apart from that, an existing de facto home-schooling ban in Germany already has produced a high-profile refugee case.

“In Germany, parents face stiff penalties if they are caught illegally home-schooling their children. The Romeike family recently left Germany and is seeking asylum in the U.S. after facing stiff fines and the potential loss of custody rights for home-schooling their children. The Home School Legal Defense Association is offering them legal help,” reported Pete Chagnon of OneNewsNow.com

Retraction

In this space last week, I picked up an item about an American Civil Liberties Union statement to Fox News that “critics of the administration’s health care proposal should not fear that their names will end up in some government database.” My item cited conservative criticism of the ACLU for engaging in double standards for being calm about White House abuse of information under a Democratic administration.

I got a letter Friday from Rachel L. Myers, a media-relations associate with the ACLU, saying that Fox News had misreported the quote. The ACLU actually had said “critics of the administration’s health care proposal should not have to fear that their names will end up in some government database.”

“Should not fear” and “should not have to fear” mean totally different things — indeed, in this context, they have almost opposite meanings. Ms. Myers also noted that an ACLU lawyer had appeared Monday on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” show “to express our concerns about the ‘fishy e-mail’ program.”

I apologize for the mistake and retract the entire item, as it was based on a false premise. An editor’s note has been appended to that item in last week’s column on The Times’ Web site.

Victor Morton may be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com