Thursday, September 3, 2009

Republicans' Seniors Scam.

From Ellen Goodman at truthdig:

When exactly did the Republicans start operating one of those marketing scams that target the elderly?

It was bad enough when Sarah Palin told a bald Facebook lie that there were “death panels” in the plans to reform health care. It was worse to see Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley flunk the “pants on fire” test as he seconded this myth. Republicans planted the fear that President Obama wants to “kill Granny.” Now they want Granny to kill health care reform.

I understand the marketing. Seniors were the only age group that Obama lost in last year’s election. He was change they didn’t believe in. Now polls suggest the folks covered by Medicare are the least likely to think health care reform will help them. In Gallup polls, almost 40 percent think it will worsen their care.

Then last week Republican Chairman Michael Steele began to sell a “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights”—a pitch that contained no rights but an awful lot of frights. He targeted folks like the white-haired South Carolina man who furiously insisted at a town hall meeting: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” (Memo to the fact-checkers: Public Policy Polling reports that 62 percent of Republicans also think that government should keep out of that government-run program!)

Steele promised, among other things, to outlaw “any effort to ration health care based on age” and “prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care.” I would stipulate that neither of these things is in any version of the bill, but that would just reduce my chance of being invited on Fox News from zero to none.

He also promised to “protect Medicare”—presumably from the plan to save $500 billion out of a projected growth in its spending. He did not mention that the proposals would also close the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, provide subsidies to low-income seniors and give the Medicare trust fund five more years of life.

This is not just a robo-call to enlist senior citizens in making this Obama’s “Waterloo.” Republicans are basing the sales pitch on the idea that expensive care is the best care and that what elders really want is more. In health care, that translates into endless doctors visits, tests, procedures and maybe even more ventilators.

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Fox Hosts Dr. Kevorkian, Their Health Care Straw Man.

You can catch the video here. What I think Fox was up to was trying to make Kevorkian a fool for the sake of their anti-reform argument. Cavuto tries to put words in Kevorkian's mouth repeatedly: never loved, no family, depressed, death means nothing, wish you had never been born. He is made as a stand in for all those who support not only Death with Dignity, but end of life counseling and choice in dying.

In other words, Kevorkian was made the health care reform straw man, made to represent all those who favor "best practice" panels, and death with dignity. Fox is framing end of life conversations as perverse and crazy. I'm not at all surprised that this is where and when Kevorkian shows up: on Fox news at this stage in our national debate over health care reform.

It's not a new role for him but it's unfortunate. I do have sympathy not for Kevorkian but for the patients he consulted who were suffering at the end of their life.

This gives me a chance to bring up the fact that Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous "Dr. Death" who prominently assisted a number of patients with suicide in the 1990s, gets no love from death with dignity (or aid in dying) advocates.

The Death with Dignity law as it exists in Washington and Oregon states that, among other qualifications, it is eligible only patients who are still able to self-administer lethal medications orally. That's why they stay away from the term "assisted suicide." Death with Dignity is all about, well, dignity, autonomy, and privacy.

Kevorkian was assisting his patients with suicide, administering the drugs. While the distinction may or may not mean much to you or Jack or his patients, it means a lot in a court of law. Like homicide, maybe.

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Ok, ok. Are Greedy Relatives Ruining Death with Dignity for the Rest of Us?

Yes, they will think you a burden and encourage you to cut the thread - just to get back their free time or to get their hands on their inheritence.

This in from Britain where they are having their own assisted suicide conversation, albeit no more dignified than our own.

So let me dispell this one right here:

Death with Dignity, as drawn and legalized in the US (Oregon and Washington) must meet a number of criteria, including:

1. the patient has less than 6 months to live
2. the patient is determined to be of sound mind
3. the patient must bring up death with dignity to the doctor, the doctor cannot mention it (nor can cousin Bertha)
4. if we all had health insurance, no one, young, old, disabled or otherwise, would be a financial "burden"

Now, was that so hard?

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Are the Disabled Ruining Death with Dignity for the Rest of Us?

Advocacy groups for the disabled in the US, like Not Dead Yet, have long allied themselves with anti-choice opponents to assisted dying, their premise being that the dignity or quality of life argument used by death with dignity advocates denigrates their lives.

From Dr. Kevorkian's assisted suicide of two disabled women in 1996, to the case of Terri Schiavo, classified as disabled by her family and religious groups, to the praise showered on Sarah Palin for choosing to give birth to a Down Syndrome baby, some disability rights advocates have long found death with dignity a threat.

Their position is that once it is decided an individual may legally determine when their life ends - and injest a doctor-prescribed lethal dose of drugs - authorities, have defined which lives are worth living. If the disabled feel in any way that society does not value them as they are, these groups say, they will be pushed further into the depression that often accompanies disability or even coerced to end their lives.

Now disabled organizations are firing back at Tony Delamothe, deputy editor of the British Medical Journal, for penning an article titled, "Assisted dying: what's disability got to do with it?" Delamothe writes:

The debate on assisted dying has been hijacked by disabled people who want to live. It needs to be reclaimed for terminally ill people who want to die

In the debate on the Falconer amendment in the House of Lords it was down to that wise old bird, Baroness Warnock, to dispel the sloppy thinking: "I think there is confusion if we run the disabled as a class of people, members of society, into another class of people, the terminally ill, although they may overlap. There are two different concepts, and we should not bring them together under the general heading of the vulnerable about whom we hear, in my experience, all too much." I hope Baroness Warnock lives for ever, although I know that she does not want to.

On first read, Delamothe's article is hard to stomach. His tone is crass and sarcastic. Yet in some ways his argument reminds us of the insecurities felt by the blind when corrective surgeries were being developed.

Writes Peter Singer in "Why We Must Ration Health Care," a discussion about how societies assign value to life, "If life with quadriplegia is as good as life without it, there is no health benefit to be gained by curing it."

Indeed, definitions play a hard role in this discourse. What qualifies as disabled? Down Syndrome? Persistent Vegetative State? Quadriplegia? What is terminal? Expected to die in 3 months? 3 years? And how does a government honor one's personal choice to die while protecting the rights of the vulnerable, the infirm?

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Everybody's a Nazi.

Even Penn & Teller. Catholics everywhere, including Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, are balking at the August 27 CBS special. John-Henry Westen at lifesitenews, writes that the show :

libeled the Catholic Church with impunity, blaming the Church for, as Donohue put it, "every evil in history." Show host Jillette said the "intolerance, greed, paranoia, hypocrisy and callous disregard for human suffering" was the hallmark of the Catholic Church. Others on the show branded the Church as an "amoral" and "power hungry" institution that is just worried about its "cash flow."

Pretty hard to argue with that, really. And yet, many still mistake criticism of the Catholic Church for criticism of Catholics, just as criticism of the Israeli government is often mistaken for anti-semiticism.

Which is why Donohue's quote is so creepy: "Penn & Teller's Nazi-like assault on Catholicism that took place on August 27 will go down in history as one of the most vile, obscene programs ever aired in any nation. That CBS, which owns Showtime, allows this to go on is positively unbelievable."

So why did the Catholic League post the video on their website? Beats me, but I advise you be cautious when you watch; doing so may make you a Nazi too.

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Atoning for the Sins of Others.

Yesterday my computer gave up the ghost, whose name, as it turns out, is Dr. Watson Postmortem Debugger.

The screen looked just fine but behind the usual desktop facade lurked the evil intent of a virus, a couple of worms and some phishing scams about to obscond with my identity. I usually like my evil to be tangible: a burglar, an infestation of bugs, an untimely bill with an upcoming due date, a kaput transmission. These little unseen destroyers of my internet life were cunning and hard to eradicate.

Yet, nothing a few hours, buckets of sweat, and some anxious conversation with a Norton specialist couldn't solve. Now I'm back to plucking away at the keys, my four year old vaio better than ever. Whatever they say about the redemption of suffering....

The great news is that I got to watch the oral hearings in the Baxter v Montana appeal case to their conclusion before the crash came. Proof that the ghost wasn't so undiscerning or completely devious. Expect a full recap of the oral hearings in a few hours.

In the meanwhile, otherspoon is back.