The whole discussion these days about the health care bill is outrageous. In particular, the discussion of end of life care has become a joke. Yup, most of the Republicans now outraged about “death panels” voted for the same concept in 2003. Yup, Sarah Palin, who started the newest round of this mess was in favor of the same idea in 2006 in Alaska. Yup, this is just recycled crap from the Clinton-era health reform days.
But what’s really getting me up in arms about this whole debate (if you want to call it that) is the argument the Republicans are making about health privacy. Let’s take Chuck Grassley (who voted for “death panels” in 2003!) and his recent comment: “You ought to plan these things out. And I don’t have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.” So he’s not opposed to end of life planning, just the government being part of it. Sarah Palin made essentially the same argument in her infamous Facebook post from two weeks ago. And the protesters at town halls have been saying the same thing, as have right-wing commentators.
So, in other words, what they’re saying is: keep the government out of our private health care decisions.
Let’s put aside the issue that the proposed bill isn’t making anything mandatory, but rather saying that such end-of-life counseling, if a patient wants it, will be covered by the insurance program. What I want to focus on is the comparison with abortion.
What’s a major part of the Republican platform about abortion? Abusive informed consent provisions that mandate that women who choose to have an abortion have extensive discussions with their doctors about the procedure that go way above and beyond the regular informed consent discussion that occurs before any medical procedure. These “informed consent” sessions include all sorts of biased pro-life counseling. After all, as the Casey joint opinion stressed, the government is allowed to put its thumb on the scale favoring choosing against abortion. And it can do so, as Republicans are more than happy to advocate for, by mandating that these private health care decisions take place with the government as a major player who pushes women to make a particular choice — not to have an abortion.
So what’s the lesson? From the Republicans, it’s that the government needs to stay out of private health care decisions . . . except when (other) women’s bodies are at issue.
- David S. Cohen