Twelve years is a long time in politics, but it was 12 years ago that Congress was considering the Affordable Care Act. It was the beginning of a decade of opposition to what would be known as Obamacare. The legislation contained language that would pay doctors and health care professionals for providing counsel regarding living wills, health care directives and other end-of-life issues. Sarah Palin famously said about this, “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” The Tea Party and conservative media jumped on the “death panel” characterization and made it their rallying cry against Obamacare. The counselling provision was ultimately removed from the legislation.
I recently picked up The Billings Gazette and read that the COVID-19 crisis was overwhelming the Billings Clinic. They were at 150% of their ICU capacity and were so desperate for staff that they were using military reserves to fill the gaps and were facing a situation that was becoming so critical that they might have to ration care. They were consulting ethics professionals on how the decisions about rationing care could or should be made. In short, things had become so critical they are developing the process and procedures for creating a real “death panel." Ironically, this is being brought to us by the remnants of the Tea Party, “My Body, My Choice” and the anti-maskers.