Tuesday, December 22, 2009

PolitiFact Designates Sarah Palin's "Death Panels" Remark Its Inaugural "Lie Of The Year" For 2009, But PolitiFact Omits Reference To Palin's Response

On Friday December 18th, 2009, the editors of PolitiFact.com, the so-called "fact-checking" website of the St. Petersburg Times, announced the results of their inaugural "Lie of the Year" poll. Nearly 5,000 voted in a national poll to name the biggest lie, and 61 percent chose Sarah Palin's "death panels" remark from a field of eight final qualifiers. The rest of the qualifiers can be viewed HERE. Others reporting on this include the Wall Street Journal, the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog (no comments permitted), and TheHill.

PolitiFact refers to the now-famous statement posted by Palin on her Facebook page back on August 7th, 2009, and cite the first two paragraphs of it:

"As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we're saying not just no, but hell no! The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's ‘death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

It should be obvious that Sarah Palin was merely projecting one of the possible long term effects of the bill, rather than claiming that the phrase "death panels" appeared anywhere therein. And she wasn't the only one concerned about the effects; see a post on Redstate . In addition, some of this is taking place in the United Kingdom right now. Stung by the initial criticism, on August 11th, President Barack Obama responded to these concerns, saying in part, "It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything.”

However, in their list of sources cited on the right side under the heading "About This Story", PolitiFact conveniently omits any link to Sarah Palin's response to the subsequent criticism, posted on her Facebook page on August 12th. Footnote numbers are hot-linked to their sources. Here are the critical excerpts of her response:

The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” [2] With all due respect, it’s misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context.

Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often “if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual ... or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility... or a hospice program." During those consultations, practitioners must explain “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice,” and the government benefits available to pay for such services.

Now put this in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.” [5] Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care? As Charles Lane notes in the Washington Post, Section 1233 “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones.... If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to “bend the curve” on health-care costs?” [6]

And Palin also expressed concern about statements made by Obama's health policy advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel Rahm, who is also the brother of Rahm Emanuel.

Of course, it’s not just this one provision that presents a problem. My original comments concerned statements made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy advisor to President Obama and the brother of the President’s chief of staff. Dr. Emanuel has written that some medical services should not be guaranteed to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens....An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” [10][11]

President Obama can try to gloss over the effects of government authorized end-of-life consultations, but the views of one of his top health care advisors are clear enough. It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing, and more evidence that the top-down plans of government bureaucrats will never result in real health care reform.
Dr. Emanuel has also advocated basing medical decisions on a system which “produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”

So from this sequence, we can establish two facts of our own. First, Sarah Palin was referring only to potential long term effects of the legislation rather than actual language. And second, while I would not expect PolitiFact to actually publish Palin's Facebook explanation, it is unethical for them not to have at least included a link to it so that people could view it and make their own decisions as to Palin's actual intent.

The bias against Sarah Palin by the elite media is real and structural.

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