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Recently, a stubborn, yet false rumor has been spreading like wildfire thanks to Republican talking heads and other stalwarts, including former vice-president nominee Sarah Palin and veteran Iowa senator Charles E. Grassley. The rumors allege that Obama’s healthcare proposals include government-sponsored “death panels”, which would decide on which terminally-ill patients, particularly the elderly, would be deemed worthy to live.

There is actually nothing in any of the legislation that would call for these so-called “death panels” that would stop medical treatment to the elderly or terminally ill as a cost-cutting measure. In actuality, a pending House bill has language authorizing Medicare to finance families to have consultations with healthcare professionals on end of life care, such as whether to your loved one wants to authorize aggressive life saving interventions later in life, when nothing else would work to keep a loved one alive. Furthermore, the interventions would be completely voluntary and a similar proposal already passed in Congress last year without a hitch. Nevertheless, Palin and Grassley seem bent on twisting the actual legislative proposals to fuel fears that Obama has nothing more than a pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia agenda. Indeed, Palin coined the term “death panels” in recent days, while speaking at one of the several town hall meetings taking place around the country. Moreover, a Washington Times editorial recently compared Obama to German Nazis—comparing his proposed healthcare legislation to the Aktion T4 program, where “children and adults with disabilities, and anyone anywhere in the Third Reich was subject to execution who was blind, deaf, senile, retarded, or had any significant neurological condition”.

Unfortunately, while the lies run rampant, they are very similar to those that helped defeat President Clinton’s healthcare reform proposals back in the 90s. Similarly, the rumors are akin to those spread during the presidential campaign that Obama was a Muslim and questioned his nationality. John Rother, the executive vice president of AARP, which is supportive of the healthcare proposals, has repeatedly deemed the “death panel” rumors false. While he expected opposition to some extent, he stated: “I guess what surprises me is the ferocity, it’s much stronger than I expected. It’s people who are ideologically opposed to Mr. Obama, and this is the opportunity to weaken the President.”

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