Sarah Palin deserves an apology. When she said that the new health-care law would lead to "death panels" deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not, she was roundly denounced and ridiculed.
Now we learn, courtesy of one of the ridiculers -- The New York Times -- that she was right. Under a new policy not included in the law for fear the administration's real end-of-life game would be exposed, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calls for the government to pay doctors to advise patients on options for ending their lives. These could include directives to forgo aggressive treatment that could extend their lives.
This rule will inevitably lead to bureaucrats deciding who is "fit" to live and who is not. The effect this might have on public opinion, which by a solid majority opposes Obamacare, is clear from an e-mail obtained by the Times. It is from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who sent it to people working with him on the issue. Oregon and Washington are the only states with assisted-suicide laws, a preview of what is to come at the federal level if this new regulation is allowed to stand. Blumenauer wrote in his November e-mail: "While we are very happy with the result, we won't be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren't out of the woods yet. This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the 'death panel' myth."
Ah, but it's not a myth, and that's where Palin nailed it. All inhumanities begin with small steps; otherwise the public might rebel against a policy that went straight to the "final solution." All human life was once regarded as having value, because even government saw it as "endowed by our Creator." This doctrine separates us from plants, microorganisms and animals.
Doctors once swore an oath, which reads in part: "I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion." Did Dr. Berwick, a fan of rationed care and the British National Health Service, ever take that oath? If he did, it appears he no longer believes it.
Do you see where this leads? First the prohibition against abortion is removed and "doctors" now perform them. Then the assault on the infirm and elderly begins. Once the definition of human life changes, all human lives become potentially expendable if they don't measure up to constantly "evolving" government standards.
It will all be dressed up with the best possible motives behind it and sold to the public as the ultimate benefit. The killings, uh, terminations, will take place out of sight so as not to disturb the masses who might have a few embers of a past morality still burning in their souls. People will sign documents testifying to their desire to die, and the government will see it as a means of "reducing the surplus population," to quote Charles Dickens.
When life is seen as having ultimate value, individuals and their doctors can make decisions about treatment that are in the best interests of patients. But when government is looking to cut costs as the highest good and offers to pay doctors to tell patients during their annual visits that they can choose to end their lives rather than continue treatment, that is more than the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. That is the next step on the way to physician-assisted suicide and, if not stopped, government-mandated euthanasia.
It can't happen here? Based on what standard? Yes it can happen in America, and it will if the new Republican class in Congress doesn't stop it.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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