Death Panels: Theey’re Baack


 Death Panels: Theey’re Baack

I recently turned 73.  And according to one of the masterminds of Obamacare, I should stop taking care of myself in just two more years.

Last October, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel wrote a lengthy and deeply disturbing article for The Atlantic in which he said he wants to die at 75 (he’s currently 57).

While he says he does not support assisted-suicide or euthanasia, Dr. Emanuel vigorously endorses refusing routine medical care. For example, after he becomes 75, he says he will no longer have such procedures as:

  • Cancer screenings
  • Colonoscopies
  • Heart valve replacement or bypass surgery
  • Cardiac stress tests
  • Flu shots

Despite claiming he’s not trying to force anyone else to follow his lead, the article is headlined:

“Why I Hope to Die at 75. An argument that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.”

He supports his position by claiming that living too long is a loss. Aging, Emanuel says “…renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.”

He adds that: “…the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us.”

Despite those perceived problems, Emanuel says he retains “…the right to change my mind and offer a vigorous and reasoned defense of living as long as possible.”

So much for the courage of one’s convictions! Not to mention that Emmanuel is promoting the idea that there needs to be justification for choosing to live past the age of 75.

While still a couple of years short of Emanuel’s arbitrary and unbiblical finish line, God willing, I plan on being creative and productive for a long time.

Not surprisingly, Emanuel’s views fit neatly with the idea of what Sarah Palin famously dubbed “death panels” during the protracted and prolonged debate on Obamacare.

Her assertion was based on a section of the original health care act that would have  authorized Medicare to reimburse physicians to discuss end-of-life issues with patients.

That label, coupled with the fact that Medicare needs to reduce costs, lead critics to claim it was a major step for healthcare rationing.

While the provision was removed from the final legislation, the concerns it raised have not gone away.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine issued a 500-page report addressing end-of-life issues.

The report shows that our nation’s healthcare system is built to deliver the most sophisticated and costly treatments to patients, but then claims that these treatments are not producing meaningful improvements in a patient’s final weeks of life to justify spending the cost.

While the report does not recommend anyone being forced to engage in advance care planning, critics argue that paying for end-of-life discussions will encourage physicians to steer patients away from expensive treatments rather than assessing the treatments' benefit to the patient instead of cost to the healthcare system. People should not be denied reasonable care due to some arbitrary cost limit placed on life-promoting treatment.

At the same time, the American Medical Association has asked The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to do what the original Obamacare required and allow Medicare to pay for end-of-life physician/patient discussions.

AMA asked that the plan go into effect in 2015. At the writing of this article the status of the request could not be determined.

Doctors should discuss end-of-life care with their patients, but there are huge moral and ethical problems with the idea being promoted that a person has a duty to die at a certain point set by subjective, discriminatory criteria like age. All of this is deeply troubling to me—a Bible-believing Christian. God is the author of life and death, and He alone should decide how long a person lives.

In fact, long life can be a sign of God’s favor, a reward for living an upright Christian life, and/or a reward for those who honor their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16 and 33).

The Bible also shows the aged as being a resourceful people with valuable gifts—especially wisdom— that they are expected to share for the good of everyone (Joel 1:2-3; Deuteronomy 32:7). 

All of us who value the sanctity of life need to strongly resist any attempts to thwart God’s plan for life—regardless of age.

This does not mean we should interfere with the normal dying process. But it does mean we must not intentionally speed that natural process up by withholding reasonable medical care.


By Wayne DuBois
Media Relations Advisor