The Locker Room

Obama = Posner = Sunstein, meaning Palin is right?

Posted by Rick Henderson at 12:58 PM

Is Sarah Palin right about President Obama's "death panel"?

One lefty who reluctantly agrees is Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast. His logic is convoluted, but Siegel is also concerned about those infamous "end of life" consultations in the House health-care bill. Siegel goes off the tracks by asserting that Obama is captive of the utilitarian thinking that allegedly brainwashes everyone associated with the University of Chicago, especially federal appellate Judge Richard Posner and Obama's regulatory czar Cass Sunstein. (Siegel also conflates an appreciation for cost-benefit analysis with an enthusiasm for euthanasia, but nevermind.) 

Whatever the president's presumed rationale, Siegel points out the part of the bill regarding end-of-life consultations:

[T]he section, on page 425 of the bill, offers to pay once every five years for a voluntary, not mandatory, consultation with a doctor, who will not blatantly tell the patient how to end his or her life sooner, but will explain to the patient the set of options available at the end of life, including living wills, palliative care and hospice, life sustaining treatment, and all aspects of advance care planning, including, presumably, the decision to end one’s life.

The shading in of human particulars is what makes this so unsettling. A doctor guided by a panel of experts who have decided that some treatments are futile will, in subtle ways, advance that point of view. Cass Sunstein calls this “nudging,” which he characterizes as using various types of reinforcement techniques to “nudge” people’s behavior in one direction or another. An elderly or sick person would be especially vulnerable to the sophisticated nudging of an authority figure like a doctor.

Bad enough for such people who are lucky enough to be supported by family and friends. But what about the dying person who is all alone in the world and who has only the “consultant” to turn to and rely on? The heartlessness of such a scene is chilling.

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