By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 20, 2009 ( – Although President Obama and liberal Congressional Democrats have denounced claims that the health care reform establishes “death panels,” it does not help reassure the American public that the nation’s foremost pro-euthanasia group is actively pushing “end-of-life counseling” as a centerpiece of health-care reforms.

Compassion & Choices, a rebranding of the former Hemlock Society, aggressively lobbies to legalize euthanasia as a “human right” by means of legislation and the judicial system. But the group has revealed that it is a major player behind incorporating a measure (sec. 1233) of the “American Affordable Choices Act of 2009” (HR 3200) that would pay doctors and medical professionals to offer “end-of-life” consultations every five years with elderly patients or those suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses.

“As Congress debates health insurance reform, Compassion & Choices is leading the charge to make end-of-life choice a centerpiece of any program that emerges,” the euthanasia society declares on its website. “We are working hard to reach our goal to make end-of-life choice a centerpiece of national health insurance reform.”

An e-mail alert sent by the organization’s president Barbara Lee Coombs asked members to join in a telephone call-in with President Obama and faith-based groups asking them to “please encourage him to be vocal and steadfast in his support of the voluntary end-of-life consultation provision for Medicare patients” if they had the opportunity to ask the President a question.

“Compassion & Choices was the number one organization behind pushing for assisted suicide in Washington State. They’ve made no secret that this is something they would like to replicate on a national scale,” said Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life Washington in an e-mail to

Since Oregon passed laws legalizing physician assisted suicide in 1997, two other states have also legalized assisted suicide: Washington and Montana through the efforts of Compassion & Choices. In Montana, the euthanasia-promoting group had assisted suicide foisted on the state through the edict of a district court; however Montana physicians and the Montana Medical Association refused to participate, saying killing their patients violated physician ethics rooted in the Hippocratic Oath.

Although the White House and its allies in Congress have insisted that talk about sec. 1233 of HR 3200 would lead to “death panels” – a term coined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to frame how involving government bureaucracy in health care would lead to low-quality care or denied care – has no foundation in fact; but the reality is that euthanasia advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) had a powerful impact upon shaping the legislation, which Compassion & Choices has aggressively promoted.

“I’m certain that they see themselves as the go-to community organization that would partner with the Federal government in end of life counseling,” said Kennedy. “Given that the President has made some disturbing statements on end of life economics, and has listened to their input on health care legislation, we can’t pretend we don’t know what the end-game is.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an advocate of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, wrote the “Life Sustaining Treatment Preferences Act of 2009” (HR 1898), which is considered the primary source of the “advance care planning” sec. 1233 of the health-care reform bill, HR 3200. Both bills incorporate what the euthanasia-promoting Compassion & Choices calls a “Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment” (POLST) and pay physicians to initiate conversations with their patients about “the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family and the reasons why such an order should be updated periodically as the health of the individual changes.”

Such advance orders not only include the establishment of living wills, and health-care proxies, but they also delineate for medical professionals under what conditions a patient would wish to refuse treatment, including cardiac or pulmonary resuscitation, going to the hospital, using anti-biotics, and even when to continue “the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.”

A number of analysts, and not all conservative, have expressed concern that sec. 1233 could lead to senior citizens being pressured into accepting lower quality care from a doctor who is reimbursed to talk with a patient about refusing treatment.

In fact Obama himself has emphasized cutting medical costs through end-of-life counseling. In an April New York Times interview, Obama mentioned how the “chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.” Obama stated that the nation must have “a very difficult democratic conversation” about dealing with those costs and advocated the creation of “some independent group that can give you guidance” on the matter.

Such an independent group under HR 3200 would be a board for “Comparative Effectiveness Research” established under the executive branch, and independent of Congressional oversight. But the White House is pushing for the creation of an Independent Medical Advisory Committee, also under the sole direction of the President, that would have the power to completely rewrite Medicare reimbursements without input from Congress.

According to a new NBC News poll, Americans have become increasingly alarmed about the proposed government involvement in the health-care of their loved ones. About 45 percent believe that the government will likely decide when to stop care for the elderly, while 50 percent say it is not likely. 54 percent of respondents also believe the government reforms will lead to a government takeover of health care, while 39 percent disagree.

However, Americans could have a greater cause for alarm to know that not only are euthanasia groups promoting this aspect of health-care reform, but that the Obama Administration has already included them as a resource for “end-of-life counseling” in its Veterans Affairs Department.