Obamacare: Will Seniors Have a Duty to Die?

The national health care debate has elicited President Obama’s pledge that the proposed $1.3 trillion, 1,018-page government health insurance program is “not going to mess” with anyone’s current coverage. But this does not ring true.

If Obamacare becomes law, expect Medicare – which represents 15 percent of the federal budget, consumes 11 percent of federal taxes, and has a future unfunded liability of at least $60 trillion (yes, trillion) – to be cut immediately.

According to Medicare expert Dr. Thomas Saving of Texas A&M, if the “federal income tax remains at the 50-year average of 10.89 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the present value of all future federal income tax revenues from now to eternity is $99.3 trillion so that the Medicare debt of $61.6 trillion is 62 percent of all future federal tax receipts.” Since the feds will not spend that much money to meet this financial obligation, its only alternative is rationing health care for the elderly.

President Obama began to lay the groundwork for “messing” with Medicare when he publicly mused that perhaps his grandmother (who died last fall) should not have had a hip replacement in old age.

Obama’s top medical advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s brother) has called for denying treatment to senior citizens outright. “Unlike allocation by sex or race,” he recently wrote, “allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if twenty-five-year olds receive priority over sixty-five-year olds, everyone who is sixty-five years now was previously twenty-five years.” This amounts to a clever tap dance for throwing the elderly over the side.

Dr. Emanuel holds that health care should be denied to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.” In other words, his vision of health care reform assumes the government possesses the power to determine a citizen’s worth. Medical procedures would not be determined by doctors who are sworn to do no harm but by bean-counting state and federal bureaucrats. Take my word for it: the exercise of such power will lead to government-sanctioned euthanasia programs.

Don’t dismiss my prognostications as Orwellian fantasies – health care that rationalizes abandoning the elderly and infirmed has been kicking around for a long time.

Back in 1920, medical professor Alfred Hoche and law professor Rudolf Binding, in their work Release and Destruction of Lives Not Worth Living, argued for “allowable killing” of the physically unfit. “The right to live,” they claimed, “must be earned and justified not dogmatically assumed.” They insisted that eliminating the physically unfit was purely “healing treatment” or “healing work.”

Their pseudo medical and legal scholarship provided the justification for the Third Reich’s unparalleled euthanasia programs that were responsible for the death of millions of innocent people.

At the Nuremberg trials, chief American counsel Robert H. Jackson viewed the progression of German euthanasia this way:

A freedom-loving people will find in the records of the war crimes trials instruction as to the roads which lead to such a regime and the subtle first steps that must be avoided. . . .To begin with, it involved only the incurably sick, insane and mentally deficient patients of the institution. . . .But “euthanasia” taught the art of killing and accustomed those who directed and those who administered the death injections to the taking of human life. . . .Once any scruples and inhibitions about killing were overcome and the custom was established, there followed naturally an indifference as to what lives were taken…. If one is convinced that a person should be put out of the way because, from no fault of his own, he has ceased to be a social asset, it is not hard to satisfy the conscience that those who are willful enemies of the prevailing social order have no better right to exist.

Today, the Netherlands – whose people were victims of the Nazis – deny medical treatment to patients every day. Dutch courts have ignored Justice Jackson’s warning and have upheld even involuntary euthanasia or “termination of the patient without explicit request.” A doctor need only ask himself “if he would accept life if he were in the patient’s position” and if he knew (although not necessarily consulted) another doctor who would agree that under the given circumstances the patient’s life is not worth preserving or is a “limited life.” Traveling pools of doctors (known as the “Angels of Death” squads) are permitted to go out and employ euthanasia when a local physician or a family refuses the “treatment.” Euthanasia is sometimes performed without the knowledge of treating physicians, and some non-medical volunteers are allowed to give lethal injections. Twenty percent of the Netherlands annual deaths are due to doctor intervention.

In the United States there are health care reform proponents who are driven to transform American according to their current view of its best interests, and the means for the changes they would effect is raw federal power. They deny the intrinsic value of man and seek total control over him – a crude utilitarianism that tries to calculate the greatest good for the greatest number. The state, not God, thus decides who lives or dies.

This culture of death crowd would have us abandon the sick and the elderly to “contain costs.” Americans whose basic belief in the inalienable right to life, have an obligation to oppose Obamacare and to promote a culture of compassion, one that ensures that every person lives – every moment of life until natural death – with dignity.

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.