By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 17, 2009 ( – The US Senate has sounded a hasty retreat on “death panels” in health-care reform by striking out the provision on “end-of-life counseling” from the bill.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), announced last week that the Senate Finance Committee has now expunged all “end-of-life” provisions from the Senate version of health-care reform in order “to avoid unintended consequences.”

Grassley admitted in a statement Wednesday that the storm of controversy surrounding the “end-of-life” provisions in detailed in section 1233 of the House version (H.R. 3200) expressed legitimate concerns that the elderly and infirm could end up pressured into lower-quality care or none at all.

“We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely,” said Grassley, “because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”

The House version “pays physicians to advise patients about end of life care and rates physician quality of care based on the creation of and adherence to orders for end-of-life care,” said Grassley, “while at the same time creating a government-run program that is likely to lead to the rationing of care for everyone.”

Grassley said the House version of the “America's Affordable Health Choices Act” in HR 3200 “leaves major issues open to interpretation” and that he could not support it as it went far beyond just “a simple educational campaign.”

However the “end-of-life” provisions could re-emerge, especially as the House may include them in any of the three versions it may pass, and the Senate could agree to them in a compromise bill that reconciles the discrepancies between their respective bills.

The Lady is the Champ: Palin v. Obama

The demise of “end-of-life” counseling has another aspect as it marks Sarah Palin's first political victory over President Barack Obama since the 2008 election.

The former Alaska Governor's famous characterization of the House bill as dangerous legislation, paving the way for a bureaucratic “death panel” that would ration care, ignited the firestorm that led to massive scrutiny of the provision. Palin posted her original remarks on Aug. 7th remarks on Facebook, and a week later Grassley announced that the provision was gone.

At a town-hall style gathering in New Hampshire last Wednesday, Obama tried to defuse the controversy over “death panels” with an attempt at humor saying a “rumor” had arisen that Congress wanted to “basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't—it's too expensive to let her live anymore.”

However Obama failed to regain control of the debate, and by the end of the week, commentators such as the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto said, “it is clear that she has won the debate.” “One can hardly deny that Palin's reference to 'death panels' was inflammatory,” opined Taranto in his “Best of the Web” column. “But another way of putting that is that it was vivid and attention-getting.”

Palin later blasted Obama for having Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel as his policy advisor on health-care reform. Emanuel outlined a policy for rationing health care called the “Complete Lives System,” which would divert care to individuals with “the potential to live a complete life.” (see coverage)

“Does [Obama] agree with the 'Complete Lives System,'” asked Palin. “If not, then why is Dr. Emanuel his policy advisor? What is he advising the president on?”

Palin also noted that Emanuel had just told the Washington Times that his “thinking has evolved” on what she called “the question of rationing care to benefit the strong and deny the weak.”

“How convenient that he disavowed his own work only after the nature of his scholarship was revealed to the public at large,” said Palin in comments posted on her Facebook page

As of publication time, Palin has added nearly 100,000 more “supporters” on her Facebook profile since her August 7 post.

According to Monday's Rasmussen presidential daily tracking poll, Fifty percent of voters disapprove of Obama's performance, while just 49 percent say they at least somewhat approve.

But Americans have lost even more faith in Obama's health-care reforms, with 54 percent now saying that no health care reform this year would be preferable to the current legislation working its way through Congress.

See related items of interest: Palin Makes Dems Cry “Uncle” On Death Panels 

National Review Online: Palin Was Right on the “Death Panels” – A Dissent from Today's NRO Editorial 

Investor's Business Daily: When You're Worth More Dead Than Alive 

See related coverage by

Sarah Palin Strikes Back Against Obama on “Death Panels”
Has massive Facebook following of 735,000 “supporters” 

Palin Firestorm Brings Fresh Scrutiny to ObamaCare “Death Panels”
Dr. Emanuel, key Obama health care advisor, stated doctors take Hippocratic Oath too seriously  


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