Playing “Taps” For The “Death Book”

August 25, 2009

I’m about a day or so late in the news cycle for this, but I wanted to comment on it anyway.

The New York Times reported the following yesterday (from here)…

Senator Arlen Specter, Democrat of Pennsylvania, called for hearings to investigate a guide used by the government to counsel veterans with critical or terminal illnesses.

On “Fox News Sunday,” H. James Towey (pictured with you-know-who), the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush, said the guide seemed to encourage people to “hurry up and die.”

The booklet, “Your Life, Your Choices,” asks people to consider whether life would be worth living if, for example, they were in severe pain, relied on a feeding tube or a breathing machine, lived in a nursing home or imposed “a severe financial burden” on family members.

In addition, the booklet asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” It then explains that people have different ideas of what it means to be a vegetable or to “pull the plug.”

In a bulletin last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs recommended the booklet as a tool to help veterans with “advance care planning.”

Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary of veterans affairs, said it was being revised.

But Mr. Towey said, “The document is so fundamentally flawed that the V.A. ought to throw it out.”

The document noted in the story isn’t the only thing that’s “flawed,” by the way; as Media Matters tells us here, the Times doesn’t even bother to report that one of the reasons why Towey is up in arms over the guide is because he’s selling a competing booklet.

And what of the “death book,” anyway (God, first “death panels” and now this!)? Once more, I give you Media Matters (here)…

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace repeatedly cropped quotes from a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) document to falsely suggest that the Obama administration is pressuring veterans to end their lives prematurely and to accuse Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth of lying about it. In fact, contrary to Wallace’s false assertions, the document he referred to does not require doctors to direct veterans to what conservatives have labeled the “Death Book for Veterans.”

Here are three things to keep in mind:

  • The “Your Life, Your Choices” book is just one of other books on this subject that the VA permits veterans and their families to consult for end-of-life planning; it doesn’t require anyone to use only this book.
  • Here is what the book actually says about assisted suicide (from David Weigel of The Washington Independent)
  • Can I specify that I want assisted suicide in my directive?

    No. Assisted suicide is currently illegal. However, even if it becomes legal, the person making the request would have to be competent and able to change their mind at the time of the suicide. Advanced directives only go into effect when you are no longer competent to make decisions.

    (Gee, that doesn’t sound like “angel of death” stuff to me – what a shame J.D. Mullane is on vacation this week and he’s missing all this fun.)

  • As Jed L. notes in a linked post to Weigel’s article (and as VA Secretary Duckworth tried in vain to explain to Fox propagandist Wallace), Bushco, not the Obama Administration, decided to include the guidebook in the VA handbook.
  • We also learn that Robert Pearlman, M.D., M.P.H., is listed as the document’s lead author. He is chief of ethics evaluation at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care (though he was one of six authors who contributed).

    And let us not forget that Towey himself, as a member of the prior ruling cabal, has other issues to answer for also (snidely noting here that “liberals…measure compassion only by tax dollars” – what a creep.)

    As Bill Berkowitz told us here in 2005…

    (Besides the Iraq war) the president’s faith-based initiative — the centerpiece of his domestic policy agenda — is also a combination of fabrications, faith, and fantasy. Despite concrete data, the Bush administration insisted that faith-based organizations would provide social services to the poor and addicted more effectively than secular programs. No data existed four years ago, and little more than anecdotal evidence exists today.

    And by the way, “Democrat” Arlen Specter can avoid wasting precious time and resources investigating what happened with this guidebook, which to me looks like the mountain hatched from the proverbial molehill. If it will help, I’ll settle this matter for him.

    Number 43 made a promise to a core constituency that he didn’t care if he honored or not. So he ended up doing so in a way that rewarded one of his friends. Next, the inevitable outcry ensued (a bit manufactured in this case) because the result didn’t achieve its intended goal, wasted taxpayer dollars, offended the previously mentioned core constituency, or any or all of the above.

    Lather, rinse, repeat…

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