We're Not A Death Panel, But We Are Going To Let You Die


Death panels get to decide who dies.

Just so there's no misinterpretation: I am absolutely in favor of death panels. I hope the death panel that decides my own case will refuse, on principle, to let my unproductive carcass be a continuing burden to the living. I've often thought, if immersive past-life regressions ever become possible, that I'd like to be a becchino, one of the disposers of corpses and near-corpses during the medieval plagues.

So I applaud diminunitive public servant Robert Reich's commentary on the need to let ailing people die, courteously discovered with great courtesy by James Taranto.

Reich, who never misses a chance to be sanctimonious and/or blue-nosed, aims to tell us the true truth rather than the political truth, and sure enough, he says something the Democrats would rather you not hear: The death panel concept did not originate in the mind of free-verse poetess Sarah Palin:


"We're going to let you die" is hard to interpret in any other context than that of a death panel. I know we're all post-modern and Lakoffian and "framing" and stuff, but when you say "we" you're still referring to a group, right? Presumably this group will include more than one person but fewer than six billion people. So if it's not a panel, what is it? A committee? A nation? A consultancy? A czar? A cabinet-level department or just an agency of HHS? A government-sponsored enterprise? A blue-ribbon commission?

Barring murder, accident and suicide, whoever pays for your medical care will have some authority over how quickly you die. If HR 3200 did not contain any discussion of death panels, that would be the scandal.

NEXT: Afghanistan, More or Less

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  1. What kind of audience applauds shite like this?

    1. Maybe they’re just big fans of The Reich?

      1. I think he was warming up the Daily Show audience.

  2. The death panel concept did not originate in the mind of free-verse poetess Sarah Palin:

    No shit.Are there really people stupid enough to think that it did?

    Even if you were that uh, unaware the quick removal of text from pending “healthcare” legislation should have cued them in.

    1. A lot of fervent (read “religious) Democrats believe that Palin made it all up from whole cloth.

    2. Are there really people stupid enough to think that it did?

      The entire staff at MSNBC?

      1. > The entire staff at MSNBC?

        True, true, but they’d believe in The Tooth Fairy if the Old Grey Whore told them s/he exists. So that’s hardly an honest test.

    3. There were no death panels in the legislation. Stop making libertarians look like conspiracy kooks.

      The thing that was supposedly a “death panel” clause was removed from the legislation because opponents were exaggerating it, and it wasn’t important to the authors’ goals anyway.

      And the fact that Robert Reich, who has no place of prominence in either the administration or Congress, says something does not “prove” that Sarah Palin was right.

  3. I think it’s funny that Obama swore there was no “death panel” at a time when half the stuff they’re voting on wasn’t even written.

    1. Folks, I don’t doubt that people who pay the bills do and should have some capability to “opt out”.

      What concerns me more is when the government tells other people that they can’t “opt in” by choice, and/or that the government-owned healthcare industry that results from this legislation fails to tell people there ARE other options besides “Die, you bastard!”

  4. We already have a “We are going to let you die” policy. You confuse that with “we will control if you die or not” policy. By “we” in the former, I mean society which allows people to choose every which way how to prolong their lives(or shorten them) and the governmental “we”, in the latter, that takes away all those choices.

  5. What kind of audience applauds shite like this?

    Notice the applause kind of died at the end there when he said that innovation and top-quality care depends on market pricing and unequal access.

    1. In the dim of the noise of their applause, listen closely. You can actually here a few little light-bulb clicks of logic.

  6. “Death Panels” has the general concept right, but it’s not quite the right description of what fools who buy into this nationalized health care scam are bringing on us.

    “The No-Help Desk” would be a more apt description. The same people who keep you waiting forever at the post office, the DMV, or any other government agency are the people they’ll have running your hospitals. By the time the decision whether to keep you on life support reaches them, you’ll already be dead.

  7. Tim, my sarcasm detector isn’t working. Were you being serious in the first paragraph? You would advocate death panels for the general population?

  8. So if it’s not a panel, what is it?

    A murder.

    Personally, I think it should be like a school board, with a rule book full of zero tolerance policies. “Look, I understand that you didn’t mean to live to be spry at 98 but with a bum hip, but our hands are tied here.”

  9. According to a famous Democratic leader, the late Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, “[i]t was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    How does the health bill meet Humphrey’s test? The Government will be providing death panels for the elderly. This article shows what the Government would be doing for certain children under the administration’s plan (hint: it begins with the first two letters of the alphabet). All that’s left are the sick, needy and handicapped. Bunch of useless eaters.

    1. Aren’t libertarians supposed to be the ones who hate the sick, needy, and handicapped? The ones who advocate a strict dog-eat-dog Darwinist existence?

      Oh, the hilarity of reality!

      1. Take that Strawman! And don’t even try to get up again!

  10. OK, so Reich is telling us what he believs an honest politician should say. That’s nice, I suppose, but what’s the upside to what his hypothetical honest candidate is selling? Higher costs, poor service, less innovation and by implication forced particpation? Is he arguing for it or against it? Because what he’s describing just plain sucks.

    1. That’s what I thought.

      He seems to be saying that less innovation, shorter lifespans, less care for the elderly and terminally ill, and higher taxes on healthy people is a worthwhile tradeoff for universal coverage.

      I suspect that’s an honest assessment of what progressives really believe (as he says). But I question whether that is really a worthwhile tradeoff.

      The whole point of universal care is supposed to be to avoid the risk of some individuals not being able to afford health care. But if some individuals are still not getting care because the government denies it, what is the difference?

      Is the net benefit supposed to be that society is transferring care from elderly and terminally ill people to younger poor people? If so, does anyone thing that that will *actually* be the result? Does anyone actually believe that any government run system would end up fairly distributing healthcare resources to those who are “objectively” more deserving of them? Or that it *wouldn’t* end up being corrupted towards the interests of the political active, connected, and influential (swing state voters, anyone?)?

      1. The whole point of universal care is supposed to be to avoid the risk of some individuals not being able to afford health care. But if some individuals are still not getting care because the government denies it, what is the difference?

        The difference is that under government-controlled “universal” care, healthcare is redistributed from the rich and/or lucky to the have-nots, especially to various favored geographic or ethnic groups. Expert bureaucrats will make rational decisions far superior to the vagaries of the unfair dog-eat-dog market, politicians get votes and campaign contributions, more union workers are hired, and do-gooders get to pat themselves on the back for supporting the whole process….

      2. Forgot to say: to the typical liberal/leftist, any well-intentioned government intervention is pretty much by definition superior to “doing nothing.” If (or when) it fails, it’s because it wasn’t done right, or just didn’t get enough money.

      3. You might be right, but then his assumptions on why leftist politicians are not honest about their health care priorities is not because they are insulting the voter’s intelligence. Rather, it is because the leftists understand that universality is not the all important value to the general public as it is to them.

      4. The real upside to the tradeoff so ably described by Reich, although it is never admitted in public, is that universal healthcare will cement the Total State and empower the Democratic Party forever more.

      5. The real upside to the tradeoff so ably described by Reich, although it is never admitted in public, is that universal healthcare will cement the Total State and empower the Democratic Party forever more.

  11. Well, yeah, but, uh, there isn’t going to be a “panel”… It is going to be more like a byzantine assemblage of government bureaucrats.

  12. The German title for Dead Ringers is The Inseparables?

    That country is insufficiently bombed.

    1. What’d I miss?
      Is there something about Cronenberg posted/linked around here?

      1. Cronenberg shout-outs are appropriate in al venues at all times. No need for instigation.

        And tomorrow, we’ll take some Percodan…just because it’s Thursday.

  13. I think it was Mark Steyn who said that the challenge isn’t going to be keeping the healthcare bureaucracy from pulling the plug on Granny, it’s going to be getting her plugged in in the first place.

  14. “My mother, I think she’s dying..” Man says to the ER Nurse at the desk.
    “Yes, it looks like she is.” The nurse responds.
    “You can’t leave her here you know. Next!”

  15. I hope the death panel that decides my own case will refuse, on principle, to let my unproductive carcass be a continuing burden to the living.

    How about letting the individual be their own “death panel” and leave your little collective out of it?

    1. If there were no socialized healthcare you would be a burden on nobody but the volunteers.

      Are you the new Jimmy Carter?

  16. Were you being serious in the first paragraph? You would advocate death panels for the general population?

    The only thing I advocate for the general population is that it leave me alone. I’m not sure it’s possible to be for or against death panels: They exist irrespective of anybody’s approval. The death panel might be your family members, who decide they don’t want to pay to send you for one more improbability treatment in Switzerland. It may be your private insurer, who finally says “This person hasn’t worked for years and needs constant artificial life support, so have our thousands of lawyers get us out of this contract.” It may be (it is most likely to be even under the current system) Medicare bureaucrats, who in my view are already too charitable, but who have an entire state’s worth of reasons to cut off your coverage or not provide it in the first place.

    It is Nature’s Supreme Entity that actually decides when you’ll die, of course. All of the death panels above have authority to stop helping you stay alive. None of them have the authority to kill you. That’s why I want to bring back the becchini. (Send me your r?sum?!)

    1. The only thing I advocate for the general population is that it leave me alone.

      Sure did not sound like that in your post.

    2. It is Nature’s Supreme Entity that actually decides when you’ll die, of course.

      Are germs, traffic accidents, artery hardening this “Nature’s Supreme Entity” you speak of?

      1. It is Nature’s Supreme Entity that actually decides when you’ll die, of course. All of the death panels above have authority to stop helping you stay alive. None of them have the authority to kill you.

        Netherlands excepted.

    3. Advancing the cause through fatalism and nihilism.

      Stay classy Cavanaugh, you failed hipster douche.

    4. Other people deciding not to pay for your treatment are not “death panels”. It seems that you’ve bought into the same fallacy that the “markets ration too!” folks have.

      Under a true death panel system, you wouldn’t even have the option of paying for life-prolonging care yourself. Quite different from simply not being able to find someone else to pay for it.

  17. To my mind, there is a moral difference between deciding that a person deserve a slice of the government medical budget that is insufficient to induce doctors to bother with them, and legally preventing doctors from treating them.

    If the government won’t pay for you to get help, you can still ask doctors to help you. You can ask charities to find funding. You can ask friends and family members to help. You can use genetic tests to determining your risk, and start saving more for medical treatment if your future looks like it holds an expensive problem. You can take that money and fly to a poor country where medical labor is cheap — if the choice is between unreliable care or none, you’re better off in the developing world.

    It’s when the government closes off the other avenues for getting care (ie, a true single payer system) that its decision to refuse money becomes equivalent to a decision to prevent you from getting lifesaving care, which becomes murder. The good news is that once we get single payer and they provide a few very late term abortions, we’re morally justified in executing the lot of them. Unless people buy the argument that, like fetuses, grandma is also subhuman, I don’t think bombing these doctors or their handlers will provoke quite the same level of outrage.

    1. Yes, I don’t think most single-payer advocates actually realize that true single-payer means making it illegal to pay for health care directly, out of pocket.
      Most of them have this vague notion of free health care provided by the government. They don’t envision the moment when the government says “no”, and you have no legal options aside from death.

      1. That is a very charitable view, Hazel. Too charitable, I’d say.

      2. No one is arguing for “true” single-payer, if that is what you mean by it. So quit wasting time with red herrings.

        1. Really? Nobody? Have you met garden-variety liberals?

      3. What you are saying is not true. The UK has a single payer system. They also have private insurance and health care which anyone who can afford it can use.

        I am not saying it is a good system. Just sticking up for accuracy.

        1. Unless what you mean by “single payer” is that only one entity is allowed to pay for healthcare under any circumstances. Very few countries with universal health care have done this and it doesn’t seem likely to happen here.

  18. Well I guess there’s one good thing about global cooling – there will be plenty of ice to put the old folks on.

    1. Yes, I’d like to die in the cold. I tell my wife this, but she doesn’t believe me. I might have to get another person to carry out my request. I went surfing (many years ago) in water that was about 50 deg F., without a properly insulated wet suit. I got giddy and felt no discomfort. I didn’t realize how close I was to passing out and drowning until an hour later.

      Sarah Palin and Richard Reich are flip sides of the same bogus coin.
      The culture of life and the culture of death demagogues see your body as a collective resource.

      1. Holy moral equivalence, Batman!

  19. Wow, this post is more convoluted than usual. Cavanaugh must suspect that Health care reform will have the staying power of Social Security and the prospect is driving him over the edge.

  20. Edward, how did you escape from the basement? You mom told me she locked you in while she would be out with her cougar posse.

  21. Thank you very much. I am wonderring if I can share your article in the bookmarks of society,Then more friends can talk about this problem.

  22. (I just posted this to an article with the title Is Broadband a Basic Human Right, so I thought I should put it here too, where it might hit interested eyes.)

    Let’s think about this.

    Rights are things people do which other people, and by extension government, should not have the power with which to interfere. In these United States, these rights have been identified and classified as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. They include the Bill Of Rights, which are specific provisions against federal government power (and some later Amendments, which include some provisions against State government power, like the 14th). It is interesting to note that while the late addition of the Bill Of Rights is usually seen as an assurance to the States that federal power would be restrained, its contemporary critics lucidly pointed out that these amendments would devolve into an enumeration of rights that implicitly exclude as priveleges-nee-“rights” anything not listed.

    Now, services are things people do in exchange for the inputs which directly or indirectly make the job possible and give direct or indirect incentive to continue. Such incentives include money for the purpose of living (food, shelter), experience for the purpose of career advancement, and charity. Inputs include cash money, barter goods, raw materials, fixed assets (real estate, buildings, machinery), and employee labor inputs.

    Now, let’s put these concepts together. If an individual has a right to a service, then one has an indirect right to the inputs of that service. Then one has a right to the labor inputs which make that service possible.

    One may wonder how this situation would differ from the federal government managing interstate highways or the post office. The interstate highway project was sold as a matter of national security under Eisenhower and then continued under the now-all-encompassing commerce clause. Similarly, the USPS enjoys protection as a monopoly provider of residential post delivery, which is derived from the power enumerated to Congress in the Constitution (“establish post offices and post roads”). If one accepts that the federal government has legitimate claim to these powers, that does not mean that they will necessarily use them — it is allowed to function in this way, but may function in some other way; and the purpose is for defense and “welfare”, which in the late 18th Century meant the actual welfare and continuing of the nation as an entity and not wealth redistribution.

    This is an unprecedented proposition, and this isn’t slavery, for slavery was the absence of individual rights to life, liberty and happiness. Rather, it’s slavery managed and mandated by the state.

    If the job doesn’t get done, then it is the government’s will for it to not be done, or it will be paid with the taxes collected from other citizens, or it will be done at the point of a gun. These are the choices the state has as its disposal, and our representatives are glad to use them now, and they will be glad to use them later.

    1. That was awful. Please stop writing things.

      1. I enjoy your argument and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

      2. I enjoyed your criticism and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  23. Jeez, i bet when Grandma Reich sees this, she’s going to take that $5 out of Bobby’s next birthday card.

  24. Of course people are going to die under the Democratic health care system overhaul. If it passes, about a third to a half of all the doctors in the country are going to quit their jobs and get out of the health care business!

  25. REich shows you where statism goes. Basically, he says we don’t have the money to treat sick people so the old and unproductive have to die. What Reich fails to talk about is why we don’t have the money. Might I suggest that before we start talking about cutting off the old and the sick, we might first want to take a look at the rest of our multi trillion dollar government? Reich would gladly kill the old and the sick to avoid cutting off the government class.

    Basically he is saying that having a giant bureaucracy that manages everyone’s lives is more important than paying for old people’s healthcare. In the end with people like Reich, it is either you or them.

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  27. I wonder if Reich has considered what a panel would have done with his case?

  28. As somebody who actually works in hospitals, let me add a little reality to this.

    The payor has absolutely no say over what care is provided. There are thousands of people on life support in hospitals every day who have no coverage and no assets whatsoever. So I think the notion that insurance companies can have death panels is overblown. Your family, none of whom will ever be billed for your life support, can pull the plug (assuming you are in a coma and can’t speak for yourself).

    As the government role expands, however, a death panel becomes a very real possibility. Right now, the unreimbursed cost of people on life support goes into the “black pool” that is subsidized by private insurance. As private insurance evaporates under the current proposals, there will be no cross-subsidization, and those costs will have to be borne by providers and/or the government. Eventually, as provider margins disappear under government cost control, it will be the government, and the only way to prevent a de facto single payer from bearing those costs is to prevent them from being incurred in the first place.

    Presto: death panel. Not possible under a private system or even a mixed system, but inevitable under a government single-payer system.

    1. You are exactly right RC. But remember Palin was crazy and stupid for saying death panels.

  29. So there are no “death panels” at the insurance giants?

    1. I could be wrong but it is my understanding that as long as an insurance policy is in force (premiums paid etc) and the patient is alive the insurance company will continue to pay for all covered services until the lifetime spending limit is reached.

      It’s funny that in all of the discusion of “pre-existing conditions” etc noone has mentioned the lifetime spending limit that is built into almost all policies.

  30. Tim, I believe you meant to say “former Reason intern James Taranto”.

    Also, CSU Northridge alum. Go Matadors!

    1. Taranto used to work at Reason? I can’t imagine he fit in well.

  31. All of the death panels above have authority to stop helping you stay alive. None of them have the authority to kill you.

    The panels won’t be helping me stay alive. My doctors would be helping me stay alive. If the doctor isn’t going to get paid, she won’t be helping me stay alive.

    The problem is the panel is going to prevent me from paying the doctor.

  32. The FDA is already a death panel..

    Thousands of cancer patients are blocked every day from getting experimental drugs, experimental procedures, etc. simply because the FDA is overly cautious. In a finite world, supply is always finite; but in a bureaucratic world finite supply is artificially reduced even further.

  33. I’d bet that once we have a government-controlled health system, we’ll find an increase in experimentation, prosecutions, quackery, etc. We already see it in other countries with restricted health care – health care tourism.

    Prohibition NEVER works.

  34. i just have to voice concern over the govt. control of the health care seeming an awful lot like a modernized version of genocide. Hitler and his govt. chose to rid themselves of those who were of jewish decent. our country is now going to target the elderly,and the sick, be they adults or children. it’s the modernized version and doesn’t look or sound quite as bad, it’s been sugar coated so that it doesn’t seem so obvious.

  35. for anyone who wouldn’t mind i would like to be able to use some portions of your comments for an article i am working on. i would greatly appreciate it. the comments can be for or against the health care reform.

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