Palin stands by 'death panel' remark in Facebook post

Palin stands by 'death panel' remark in Facebook post
File photo. (AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Robert DeBerry)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin refused to retreat Thursday from her argument that a proposed health care overhaul would create "death panels," even though a provision of the bill she cites merely authorizes government reimbursements to doctors for voluntary end-of-life consultations.

In a Facebook posting late Wednesday night, Palin argued that the elderly and ailing would be coerced into accepting minimal end-of-life care to reduce health care costs based on the Democratic bill in the House. She criticized President Barack Obama who has said the legislation would not create "death panels" or "basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore."

In the posting titled, "Concerning Death Panels," Palin wrote: "With all due respect, it's misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients," and added, "It's all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing."

In fact, the provision in the bill would allow Medicare to pay doctors for voluntary counseling sessions that address end-of-life issues. The conversations between doctor and patient would include living wills, making a close relative or a trusted friend your health care proxy, learning about hospice as an option for the terminally ill, and information about pain medications for people suffering chronic discomfort.

The sessions would be covered every five years, more frequently if someone is gravely ill.

The American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization support the provision.

Yet it has created such a furor that senators decided to excluded it from their version of health care legislation. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that they "dropped it entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

Palin's posting comes one day after Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that Palin and other critics were not helping the GOP by tossing out false claims. Portions of the Democratic health care bills "are bad enough that we don't need to be making things up," Murkowski said, invoking a phrase that Palin used in her resignation speech, when she asked the news media to "quit making things up."

Murkowski said she was offended at the death panel terminology. "There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill," she said.

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican who co-sponsored a similar measure in the Senate, said it was "nuts" to claim the bill encourages euthanasia.

And Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who authored the provision on end-of-life counseling, said he is astounded that Palin has not tempered her bleak descriptions of the health care bill.

"It's deliberate at this point," Blumenauer said. "If she wasn't deliberately lying at the beginning, she is deliberately allowing a terrible falsehood to be spread with her name."

He said the measure would block funds for counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option, calling references to death panels or euthanasia "mind-numbing."


Associated Press Writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.


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