The Eclectic Quill

August 12, 2009

Reviewing Kathleen Parker’s “Balanced” Comments on HB 3200

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 8:47 am

Kathleen Parker today has an opine piece on “easing the death panel” fears. She calls out Palin for her comments that are “made for tabloids” and then goes on to explain that because of this “hyperbole” we “risk overlooking troublesome language in the end-of-life section of the House health bill, a.k.a. Section 1233 of H.R. 3200.” Precisely what this “troublesome language” is is never made quite clear, because she never actually quotes from the bill, rather she interprets it, and in so doing, gives credence to the extreme position by landing somewhere in the middle between reality and insanity. This demonstrates the problem with the media’s constant creation of the perception that both sides are always valid and the truth is in the middle. If one sides distorts the truth to ludicrous proportions, then the “middle” can be completely out of balance. Such is the case in Parker’s piece.

She creates for us the artificial argument of how we, as a society need to balance the needs of the patient with the needs of society in an age where we can be kept alive artificially, longer, and expensively. The problem here is in the premise that this has something to do with the bill, and without this premise everything else falls flat. The bill has nothing to do with that. The bill is not trying to reconcile the needs of society with the needs of the patient. It is not dealing with those eventualities of end of life care. It is dealing with how to pay for the counseling long before end of life care becomes an issue. All the bill is allowing for is the patient the opportunity to be the exclusive person that determines what happens to him or her in a situation where they are in a situation where death is inevitable at a time when they are able to do so. Again, let me repeat this, the bill is about paying for end of life counseling, it is not receiving end of life care. All the confusion about this bill are a direct result of conflating these two entirely separate things.

These other “vague” issues that aren’t discussed in the bill aren’t discussed for the same reason that ice cream isn’t discussed, they don’t have anything to do with the bill. She’s asking, quite literally, why things that have nothing to do with the bill are not in the bill. There are no vast, unspecified powers left to the Secretary as she implies. Essentially the powers addressed to the secretary are specifically enumerated and really boil down to determining who is qualified to be a counselor for end of life care, who can serve as a proxy in emergency situations, and what constitutes a hospice. In short there’s absolutely nothing in the bill that implies, or that can be inferred to mean that the government in any way, shape or form can overturn a decision made by an individual.

Parker then goes on to “elucidate” that, “It would be nice to think that everything goes as patients intend, but we can safely assume that when human error collides with bureaucratic efficiency, nightmarish enforcement scenarios could ensue. Likelihoods morph into certainties when, as this bill sets out, primary-care physicians aren’t necessarily involved in the consultations. As proposed, a variety of health-care practitioners would do.” So allow me to elucidate her “elucidation.” We can safely assume that because of bureaucrats a nightmarish scenario will certainly ensue because health care practitioners aren’t involved in the decision making process. So what we’ve got now is the logical equivalent of a death panel, just dressed up in prettier language. The problem though is that her possibility that turns to inevitability isn’t even a possibility. It’s all built on the false premise that what this legislation is about is the balance of social needs versus personal needs. All this legislation does is allow people the opportunity to legally say, when they are able to, what should happen to them. Period. There’s nothing, no hint that “bureaucrats” can override your decision. The variety of health care practitioners are just that, health care practitioners. And they are counseling you on end of life services, not making determinations for you, and certainly not overriding decisions made by you.

Building upon her now wholly fallacious argument Parker goes on to add outright law to fallacy. “Not least, the bill is an enabling document that leaves great discretion to the secretary of health and human services to develop guidelines that ultimately could change the character of what seems to be offered.” Where does it say that? Nowhere. One has to wonder, if this is the case, why haven’t you quoted from the actual bill anywhere in your piece? She then goes on to suggest that if patients don’t participate in end of life consultations there could be penalties attached! This is complete fiction! There’s nothing to suggest that anywhere in the bill.

She finally concludes that everything would be settled if there were simply language indicating that it was not mandatory. What Parker doesn’t acknowledge though is that there is nothing in the bill that says it is mandatory. In fact the bill only says that end of life consultations will be paid for, not mandated. There’s nothing in the language that even remotely suggests that this is mandatory. The great irony of this debate is that the intention of the bill is the exact opposite of what it’s being portrayed as. The intent is simple, you, and you alone should be able to make the decision about what happens to you. It is fair and reasonable that you should be able to have a discussion with a physician in reaching this decision, and that discussion is going to cost money. All this bill does is say that discussion is going to get paid for. All it does is say that not having the money shouldn’t preclude you from being able to make this decision. It is patently wrong to describe it as anything else, or to suggest that nefarious forces, or well meaning, but ill fated forces are going to result in your early demise against your wishes. So, Kathleen Parker, you can dress it up in prettier language, but your argument is built on the same premise, and it remains just as much hyperbole as the argument you condemn.


  1. still, Palin sucks

    hate her for what she did to Letterman

    Comment by CCC — August 12, 2009 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  2. No argument there.

    Comment by kelly — August 12, 2009 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  3. Matt texted me this after I read him your latest comment on my Facebook piece.

    “Reagan on the other hand (as opposed to previous conservatives) dealt in absolutes and ignored reason AND data, relying instead on confidence, nomenclature and consistency to make his point… A whole generation has adopted this approach, which is why debate with them is a waste of time – in Government or conversation.”

    No matter how much evidence; facts, statistics, research you provide, the Social Conservative will try to beat you down with talking points and attack your motivation.

    I write an article on how conservatives are fanning the flames of racism with protesters telling Mexicans to go home. Express my opinion that they lack compassion for these illegal immigrants.

    I’m then told by a conservative that the issue isn’t racism and I should have written an article on the fairness of amnesty or various paths to citizenship and how unfair that is. Problem is I didn’t. Because that is THEIR issue not mine.


    Comment by Mary Hanningrton — August 24, 2009 @ 5:05 am | Reply

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