Thaddeus Pope: “Death Panels Save Lives”

Yes, you read the headline correctly: Thaddeus Mason Pope–with whom I had the pleasure of publicly discussing these issues at the World Affairs Counsel of Philadelphia last week–has taken to the AJOB blog to claim that “death panels save lives.”

To illustrate why this is wrong, I have to show the intellectual sleight-of-hand Pope deploys to supposedly prove his point. He does not use the term as popularly conceived, e.g. rationing under Obamacare. Rather, he refers to triage boards in organ transplant medicine. From, “Death Panels: Can We Handle the Truth?”

In December, I defended the term “death panel” on this blog. Specifically, I demonstrated that we already have, and for over 50 years have had, quite a number of tribunals that act as death panels. For example, at least daily, UNOS denies potentially life-saving organ transplant requests. While the term “death panel” has a pejorative connotation, the essential concept and function is necessary. Particularly in situations of strict scarcity, life and death decisions must be made. They are made. And they will continue to be made.

But that isn’t what people are concerned about in the Obamacare death panel debate, particularly since organ triage is generally based on the individual circumstances of each patient, not pre-determined invidiously via bureaucratically decreed category.

Still, Pope seems to support death panels beyond organ transplant triage, as conceived by Bill Gates–whose opinion I criticized here last week. This, even though we don’t have “strict scarcity” regarding interventions such as end-of-life care

Bill Gates rightly observed that we must deny even effective and life-saving medical technology to some people…

Death panels, while tragic, save lives. And their existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to many, saves lives. We don’t want the truth, because deep down in places we don’t talk about at parties, we want death panels.

No, death panels aren’t necessary in the this context, and will not “save lives”–particularly when we are expanding coverage for non essentials and life-style enhancers.

Let’s see, life extending cancer chemo or Viagra? Not a tough choice.

But I agree with Pope. Get this debate out in the open. It is the only way to stop true technocracy-controlled death panels from ever being formed.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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