Senate Republican announces that end-of-life provision will be removed from bill.

Aug 14 2009 Published by under Bipartisan

If you're holding out any hope that Harry Reid might actually be concealing - deep, deep down - an untapped well of leadership potential, it's probably because you haven't seen this story yet:

The Senate Finance Committee will drop a controversial provision on consultations for end-of-life care from its proposed healthcare bill, its top Republican member said Thursday.

The committee, which has worked on putting together a bipartisan healthcare reform bill, will drop the controversial provision after it was derided by conservatives as "death panels" to encourage euthanasia.

"On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of these issues and policy options," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

OK. First of all, what the bloody hell is a statement like that doing coming - without contradiction - from the leading Republican on the committee? I wasn't aware that we'd worked long, hard, and effectively to put 60 Democrats into the United States Senate so that Chuck flipping Grassley could run the damn Finance Committee.

Second, but more importantly, how stupid - and on how many different levels - can the Democrats in the Senate possibly get?

The end of life provisions in the bill are controversial because (and only because) the right decided to manufacture a controversy around them. The public uproar over the provisions stems entirely from a series of utter fabrications. The bill does not require counseling. It does not create any sort of panel to carry out counseling. It does not authorize anyone who is not a medical professional to carry out the counseling. It does not force physicians to provide such counseling if they do not want to, and it does not force patients to receive such counseling if they do not want to.

There is very little ambiguity in the provision itself. Dealing with whatever ambiguity exists (primarily in the minds of the opponents of the bill) by throwing out the entire provision is throwing out the baby with the bath water. A reasonable approach to problems with the language of the provision is to clarify the language, not to strip the provision - but that's beside the point unless you suspect Grassley of trying to be reasonable.

I'm hardly an expert in politics, but I can't see any political upside to stripping the provision. The message that it sends is that mob rule works. If you don't like something that Congress might do, lie to people, frighten them, and encourage them to start screaming. It will get you what you want. It's dangerous to let your three-year-old think that sort of thing will work; it's nothing short of insane to allow temper tantrums to set public policy.

I can see even less of an upside to letting Grassley be the one who announces that the provision is history. The Republicans have 40% of the Senate. Why on earth would any sane leader want to send the message that they're the ones actually running the show - even if they are, which certainly seems to be the case here.

More importantly, the provision is good medicine. I haven't talked to a practicing primary care physician yet who wasn't happy about it, and I've talked to some who are typically very conservative. The thing about those end-of-life decisions is that, one way or another, they will be made. There's absolutely no way to avoid that. They can be made in a calm, informed way before the crisis unfolds, or they can be made for you by others - or by default - as things happen. The provision in the bill gives patients - not bureaucrats, not bean counters, not even doctors - more of a say over what kind of care they want to receive at the end of their lives. That's good for everyone.

Unfortunately, it seems like neither good politics nor good medicine is enough of a reason to allow the provision to remain in the bill. At least not as long as we've got the courageous Harry Reid there to inspire his 60-member caucus.

14 responses so far

  • Orac says:

    Cowardice, thy name is Senate Democrats.

  • Captain Obvious says:

    This always seems to be the case. The Republicans do whatever they can to drive through their views, no matter what the cost, whilst the Democrats do everything in their power to bend over backwards for the Republicans whilst farting nonsense about bipartisanship.
    Bipartisanship requires both parties to work together. One party doing what the other wants is not bipartisanship, it's partisanship by one party and spineless idiocy on the part of the other.
    Really, the actual benefit of electing a Democratic government is so you get a Republican government with some of the grosser insanity modulated out. You don't get a Democratic government and won't unless the Democrats actually decide to grow a pair and perhaps even stand up for the platforms they were elected on.

  • mad the swine says:

    The ironic part, of course, is that dropping this provision won't alter the language of the opposition one bit, because the death panel bulls*** had nothing to do with the provision in the first place. Conservatives believe that Obama, the Democrats, and the text of the bill itself are lying, and that universal health care will lead to eugenics and euthanasia, because that's what they believe socialized medicine is. That's what they've been hearing from Limbaugh, etc, for the past thirty years, and any claim that the text of the bill does not in fact authorize euthanasia will be met with the claim that everybody knows liberals want to kill babies and old people and real Americans, so even if euthanasia isn't in the bill *now*, Obama intends to sneak it in somehow, because he has a D by his name on the ballot, and everybody knows what those people are like...
    It's kind of depressing, really.

  • mad the swine says:

    I mean, look at the previous post on this blog, where Cal Thomas points out how euthanasia, eugenics, choosing those who deserve to live, is a fundamental and innate part of liberal (ie, reality-based, believing in evolution) thought. He 'knows' that liberals want to kill off old people and disabled people, and no technicalities (like the health care bill not actually authorizing anything like that) are going to change his mind. If liberals support it, it *must* somehow lead to euthanasia and forced abortions and so on and so forth, and so must be opposed. It's impossible to reason with people like that...

  • Wouldn't it be great if the Dems used this as a teachable moment? Wouldn't it be great if the misinformed grew quiet long enough to listen? Wouldn't it be great if they learned the truth and as a result stopped listening to Rush L.?

  • JN says:

    The Democrats started this process by handing concessions to the insurance industry.
    When was there ever an expectation that they would attempt a truly courageous, ethical and just reform?
    Democrats haven't changed much since they let Bush get away with stealing the 2000 election and then tried to scapegoat Ralph Nader to cover up their own cowardice and incompetence.

  • Mary says:

    I'm pretty sure there's no way meaningful reform will ever be enacted as long as the right wing sees it as a "Right to Life" issue. I think this is a smart move that immediately takes the wind out of the sales of the opposition.
    We can explore the ethical and political "end of life" minefield later. For now, let's get health insurance to the people who don't have it.

  • jacksmith says:

    Throw The Healthcare Obstructionist Out!
    More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% republicans). Basically everyone.
    We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. And the most costly. Costing over twice as much as every other county. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don't die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.
    I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. A trillion dollar taxpayer funded private health insurance bailout is all you really get, without a robust government-run public option available on day one. Co-OP's ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION. They are a fraud being pushed by the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry that is KILLING YOU!
    YOU CANT HAVE AN INSURANCE MANDATE WITHOUT A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION. MANDATING PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE AS YOUR ONLY CHOICE WOULD BE A DISASTER. AND UNETHICAL, CORRUPT, AND MORALLY REPUGNANT. AND PROBABLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS WELL.
    These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!
    Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it's President Obama's fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.
    But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.
    But you don't have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.
    Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will make you feel better too.
    There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.
    I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!
    You have been AMAZING!!! people. Don't loose heart. You knew it wasn't going to be easy saving the World. 🙂
    God Bless You
    jacksmith — Working Class
    I REST MY CASE (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)
    Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.
    * Richard Shelby of Alabama
    * Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    * John McCain of Arizona
    * Mel Martinez of Florida
    * Johnny Isakson of Georgia
    * Mike Crapo of Idaho
    * Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    * Sam Brownback of Kansas
    * Jim Bunning of Kentucky
    * David Vitter of Louisiana
    * Kit Bond of Missouri
    * Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
    * Richard Burr of North Carolina
    * George Voinovich of Ohio
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    * Jim DeMint of South Carolina
    * John Thune of South Dakota
    * Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
    * Bob Bennett of Utah

  • Dan says:

    This blog is an example of what is basically wrong with the political climate in our country. No matter what the quality behind a statement, the statement is judged based upon party affiliation. This is a blog about "science"? No, it's a platform for derision of political figures, most often Republicans. The notion that someone cannot create an program or a plan that deserves consideration dialogue because of their political affiliation is sheer lunacy. Whether one is a Republican or a Democrat is not the issue; the issue is the content of their statements. I consider myself an independent. I hope what that means in this day and age is that I can listen to the thoughts and ideas of both parties and judge them for their merits alone.

  • Whether one is a Republican or a Democrat is not the issue; the issue is the content of their statements. I consider myself an independent. I hope what that means in this day and age is that I can listen to the thoughts and ideas of both parties and judge them for their merits alone.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!! LOON ALERT!!!!!111!!!

  • BaldApe says:

    As Mad the Swine said, removing language from the bill in hopes of getting rid of loony Republican fantasies about required euthanasia and disabled people on work crews and mandatory abortions for Christians and... (sorry, got carried away with the crazy)
    We will never have honest political discussion until reporters and political figures can say "You're a liar" without penalty. Lying carries no penalty (unless it's about a blow job) but calling out a liar is "mean spirited."

  • Rob Jase says:

    So Dan, where do you stand on the health care issue?
    Are you in favor of medical decisions being made between a patient and her physician with no government interference? If so, then why not include abortion funding?
    Are you against end-of-life counselling and want the government to stay out of it? If so did you support the theocrats in the Schiavo case?
    Somehow I'd bet I know the answers already. But let's hear you anyway.

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  • Melissa says:

    Finally, people telling it like it is and calling a lie a lie instead of "misinformation". As for Grassley - he personally told a crowd of 300 they were correct in fearing this provision and how gov't should never be deciding to "pull the plug on grandma". Now he takes credit (as he sees it) for this, purporting to protect the public from "misinterpretation"...HE MISINTERPRETED IT ON PURPOSE!! Did everyone just forget that? Now republicans will call this a victory for them and the people. Rush is already saying the fact that this provision was removed is in & of itself proof positive the "death panels" really did exist! This intense opposition is growing bolder and more extreme every day (or so it seems)...Why is this allowed to continue unabated? Where are the democrats? Why is the president letting people who want to destroy him get away will such questionable methods? I think his efforts to please all of the people all the time and to be "everyone's president" backfired - no one is happy now. Democrats need to find their voice and their backbone and step up. Call out the liars for what they are. Hold them accountable for intentionally scaring their own constituents for the sole purpose of "breaking" the president and democrats. I must be missing something, because I don't see how the democrats' collective silence will accomplish anything.
    To Dan who rejects the realities of party affiliations in favor of "content": I was once that naive, too, then I started paying attention. Should they be voting on content, not party lines? I'd say yes. But the reality is they don't..they serve only to advance personal and political agendas, not for their constituents.
    Recognize and accept it - your belief in something doesn't make it true.
    Mike - thanks SO much for the article. I'm brand new here and happy to have found it.