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justafarmer On February - 19 - 2011

As Politicalgates expands and expounds, certain topics that relate to Sarah Palin, and more importantly, society as a whole, have a way of circling around. Some questions or issues can persist, and are worthy of reevaluation given their ongoing pertinence. Recently, the always relevant, misguided concept of the “death panel” came up again in discussions on this site.

A very good overview of the “death panel” fiasco is readily available as a wikipedia page titled Death Panel. However, we think the matter is worth revisiting given the nerve it touches. As someone said, “the ‘death panel’ never gets old.”

The “death panel” comment was really a microcosm of all that is Palin — a road map to all her despicable escapades. An uneducated remark that continues to gnaw at our national fabric. Like most of her rhetoric, it wasn’t even her idea. The phrase came from the notorious propagandist Betsy McCaughey. Nonetheless, she coined its inflammatory, simplistic, jingoistic nature and is now part of Palin’s history. A slander to the truth and reality of a universal experience. And all of it was done solely to advance the self-serving interests of Sarah Palin. Generally, she knows nothing of what she speaks and it serves only to advance her grifting, political ambitions.

Moreover, when the overwhelming evidence, or even common sense, forces her to react, that reaction is predictable and pitiful. Stonewalling, denying, rationalizing, reverse-victimization, Fox News cover, and eventually making light. This pattern of Palin’s responses to her banal comments has been played out over and over again. The “I read all of them” and “they were surveyor’s marks” both followed this pattern. And “death panels” is no exception; it has entered our lexicon; and the day to day, ongoing presence of this bitter pill lives on. Furthermore the utter hypocrisy of this woman is seen in this link, Death Panel Flip-Flop, wherein, she was for rational end-of-life thinking before she was against it.

Even worse, her statements become insults to our humanity and intelligence. Nowhere was this more apparent than the “death panel” debacle. A crude remark becomes an affront to our sensibility. Our experience with end-of-life issues is belittled, demeaned and injected with fear. Palin’s calculated phrase was essentially a torpedo designed to scare people and sink the healthcare bill. Oh, and isn’t it interesting that it was also her first Facebook post after her quitting the governorship of Alaska? “Death panels” thus acted as a tool of the anti-healthcare reform set, a cheap ruse to cover the abandonment of her office and a vehicle to increase the celebrity of Sarah Palin.

Healthcare professionals certainly have a unique perspective, both in quantity and quality, with end-of-life care, but, end-of-life is something we all will face — personally, or through a loved one. Quite frankly, there is honor in attending and witnessing this part of the life cycle. What further sets healthcare providers apart is that as a result of their experience, they have all thought thoroughly about details of end-of-life care. The matters of living wills, Do Not Resuscitate, advance directives, nursing home care, hospice, etc. have all been considered on an individual basis. Not one of these people, reasonably, would call that process a “death panel.” An honest, open discussion — without fear — is nothing but civilized and humane. For your reference here is a medical directive by state and a more national one that can act as magnanimous templates for these important, universal matters.

Even if Palin’s toxic, nefarious blurb only hit her base, it was still extremely destructive. Whether you are entering into a discussion about end-of-life care individually or with a loved one, you cannot be in denial or fearful of the conversation. We see too many people who avoid the issue and often times put themselves into a corner, or hurt themselves by not taking advantage of the resources that are available. There is nothing even close to a “death panel” or government bureaucrat rationing care when doctors, nurses, social workers and families enter into end-of-life discussions. And, as the wikipedia page states:

PolitiFact.com called “death panels” the “Lie of the Year”; FactCheck.org referred to it as one of their “whoppers” of 2009. The American Dialect Society, a group of English language scholars, reported that “death panel” was their “most outrageous” word for 2009.

So, how many people had to suffer unnecessarily for Sarah’s fear mongering? To this day, how many people avoid entering into humane discussions with healthcare providers because of her outlandish, selfish poison pill? How further away are we from an open forum of these universal topics? Our two-bit, poorly educated, quitter of a public official has no experience or simple understanding of the complexities involved with end-of-life care. As an illustration, here is just one anecdote (from sleuth) that shows the depth of the matter:

On what was a run-of-the-mill local volunteer firefighter/ambulance call one early morning, I drove to a house about a mile and a half from my own house in a very rural location. I got there before the ambulance arrived (firehouse was five miles away from the location). I knew the deceased patient and her family. She was in final stages of terminal brain cancer and had a legal DNR.Unfortunately, the DNR was on file with the regional Hospice and there was no copy at the house.

While I waiting for my fire captain (who was also a senior paramedic) to arrive, the household was already in an uproar. The husband knew about the DNR, the mother was insisting that heroic measures be started, and the poor young son (about 10 years old) was in a huge state of distress.

The ambulance eventually arrived and the mother continued to insist on heroic measures saying “look! She’s sweating! She can’t be dead!” despite all vital signs to the contrary.

My captain agreed with my initial assessment. The woman had passed and there really was nothing to do other than create more distress. Even our resource hospital insisted that we try heroic measures.

While my captain argued with the resource hospital, while waiting for the Hospice personnel to arrive with the legal DNR, the child ran out of the house into a cornfield, just as our assistant chief arrived to try to calm the emotions.

Hospice eventually arrived with the DNR paperwork. Mother was still insisting on heroic measures. Deceased’s husband was in tears in the kitchen. The child was still in the cornfield.

I was sent to find the child.

I spent several hours in the cornfield with that child. He was angry that the “grownups” raised this huge drama and didn’t let him have the “quiet time” with his mom at the end to say goodbye or whatever he had prepared himself for.

The child knew his mom’s time was limited, they’d talked about it and he was ready for the end.

But the “grownups” had their own opinions that didn’t go along with the patient’s wishes, much to the detriment of the child who DID understand. He wasn’t happy about it, but he loved his mom and was ready to let her go when the time came.

“End of Life” affects many people, but none so much as those who have prepared themselves and made their wishes known, and those who RESPECT those wishes.

And “respect” for life and death is what this is all about.

We mustn’t forget the damage her ill-begotten torpedo has caused. Essentially, “death panels” was rhetorical terrorism. A designed ploy to influence a group of people into a behavior she desired, i.e. media attention, diversion, and public policy. But, even though the enormous consensus is that she lied (again), she hardly paid any political price for such an egregious act. Deeper irony yet, she lied on top of a lie by claiming Trig, as “her baby”, would be subject to the outrageous notion of a “death panel”.

As healthcare professionals, and as human beings, we stand appalled at the callous disregard for dignity that Sarah Palin exhibited by coining the phrase “death panel”. For those who care for the sick, elderly, or dying, it has hindered our stewardship. She was fed the line, and her supporters spread the untruth. There was never any effort on their part to correct or make amends with the damage it did. “Death panel” now stands in our lexicon, forever associated with Sarah Palin, as a roadblock to honest and open treatment of end-of-life issues. To us, “death panelgate” encapsulates all that is wrong with the public figure of Sarah Palin.



Reader Juicyfruity has added some important advice for this post.

Here is a registry site, for all fifty states. You can download and read about what is legal in your state and to request or fill out Advance Directive Forms. Each state, have different rules. So, if you are moving to another state and had a living will done in your previous state; you may have to change your living will, to what is acceptable, in the state you are residing in.


h/t to http://politicalgates.blogspot.com/2011/02/sarah-palin-watch-death-of-death-panels.html where I am sl

and we will not even start now with how big government inserted itself into the Terri Shiavo end of life Bush Republican debacle…

Categories: Fox News, GOP, News & Politics

39 Responses so far.

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  1. KQuark says:

    Unfortunately it’s like an unfounded allegation against anyone famous. The damage was done because so many wanted to believe the lie at a critical junction in crafting the ACA.

    But make no mistake correcting the record the way you did is still extremely valuable to history.

  2. justafarmer says:

    I see that I messed up part of the post & I’ll see if I can fix it.
    This post originally appeared at the blog politicalgates (unclickable link at the end of this post), and I was one of three authors of that post; the other two are “Joe Christmas” and “Cheeriogirl”. I am the third author, aka “sleuth” and am the retired EMT who provided the anecdote.

  3. moongal6 says:

    What an absolutely wonderful article. I am so fortunate to live in Oregon, a Death with Dignity state. Years ago, when I first moved here, I found it somewhat alarming that there would be, listed on the obituary page, deaths of people my own age (I am now 60).
    I got over it. I wish each state would consider putting a measure on the ballot and make the will of the people be known.
    Here is a link, I hope it works, to the pdf of AD plus HIPAA consent, etc,. There may be enough info to at least get things started.


  4. Smirnonn says:

    From a fellow farmer, well put. I loved the quote from the emt. It IS all about respect for life.

  5. ADONAI says:

    All I know is, when she loses her first primary by a mile and slowly fades from the Presidential race and politics in general, people will wonder why they ever thought she was so important to begin with.

  6. Abbyrose86 says:

    What a fabulous piece. When I saw the name Sarah Palin in the title, I was like oh no…not Sarah AGAIN.

    However, after reading the piece I am so grateful you framed the discussion with her obvious charlatan chicanery…that has caused much suffering for her own benefit.

    Thank you for providing the touching story of the dying woman and her son and for framing the article as you did.

    This is a very important topic and I’m afraid if the GOP are allowed to get their way in the latest of their health care scare tactics, we might see further erosion to what little has been accomplished in this area.

    Thank you.

  7. funksands says:

    Great piece! Thanks so much.

    One of the forgotten problems of the Advance Directive is that when the HIPAA regs were updated in 2003, they complicated many ADs in place prior to then.

    The non-disclosure rules of the HIPAA law as it pertains to your Private Health Information and your medical power of attorney and/or AD may be in conflict.

    If your AD was set up prior to 2003, you might want to update it. A HIPAA release form may be neccessary for your loved ones to obtain medical information from a hospital or medical provider to direct your course of care.

  8. PocketWatch says:

    The story about the child in the field brought back some memories…

    My Dad died of cancer back before there was formal paperwork that could be legally filed, a living will or whatever. It took a year for my Dad to die, chemotherapy kept him going. He and I and my brothers talked about it, my mom wasn’t too keen on talking about it, so we let her alone. My dad did not want heroic measures. Maybe a feeding tube if he couldn’t eat, but that was it. he had no interest in “living” on machines for a long time.

    So, when he got bad enough to be hospitalized near the end, my brothers and I had a long talk with his oncologist and made sure he understood we wanted a DNR on his chart. He said he understood, and we thought that was the end of it.

    I’ll never forget the day my dad died. I drove 130 miles up to my hometown that weekend, and dad was in the hospital, not in very good shape. The minute I walked into the room, I knew he was dying. I spent some time with him, but he wasn;t responsive, and I had to head back home to go to work the next day.

    I had one foot on the elevator across from the nurses station, and for some reason, I stepped back off, walked up to the nurse’s station and asked if my dad’s chart had a DNR on it. It did not. I was stunned! I insisted that the oncologist be called. He was unavailable. I went ballistic (without yelling, but got very intense) and demanded to see the head Resident to straighten it out (it was a Sunday, and not many doctors were around).

    The two nurses gave each other a look when I mentioned the name of the oncologist, and I got it. This had happened before with other patients. Apparently, he didn’t believe in DNRs and took his own path. It was all in a glance.

    The nurses told me they would handle it. I made sure they understood that any other option or issue would result in very dire consequences, since I had my dad on tape saying what he wanted.

    My dad died before I got home that night.

    I am SO grateful for that unexplicable feeling I had to check on his chart. My dad was able to die without prolonged machine assistance, which is really not living. He went in his time, with my mom there, and that was good. I consider it one of the best things I ever did for him.

    • justafarmer says:

      THIS is exactly why we have to continue fighting this “death panel” nonsense!
      When the first question is not your name, or what is the problem but is instead “what is your insurance?”, THAT is the real problem with so-called “death panels”.
      If one has insurance, the patient will be kept alive no matter what as long as the insurance holds out, UNLESS there are advanced directives in place.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      My father died in 2004, from cancer. He wouldn’t go to a hospital unless it was absolutely necessary, and would usually suffer in silence, as long as he could.
      This was the case with his cancer. He withheld going to see a doctor or actually going to the hospital. Once he no longer had any choice in the matter, he was diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized throughout his brain, lungs, and liver. There was no possible chance of saving him.
      Once we got him into a hospital, he passed within a week. There was no time for end of life preparations. I think, in a way, at least from my father’s point of view, he would have preferred it this way.
      I know that I do not want to live, dependent on machinery or chemotherapy.

      • justafarmer says:

        {{hugs}} to you, too.

      • moongal6 says:

        I Thank you and PocketWatch for sharing your stories, I hope the sting is softened by time.
        Here in Oregon, we get to choose what day to leave our mortal shell. We get to have our family, friends and all loved ones be with us. Or, we can chose our own private time. I don’t know which one I will choose, if faced with this decision, but I do take great comfort in knowing I decide.

    • snoskier says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I was fortunate during the deaths of both my parents that we had had discussions about end of life issues. We lost my mom’s father after a stroke and 9 days of misery. The Friday after the funeral, my dad had a heart attack (we think). Unfortunately for all of us, the emergency room continued resuscitation. He ended up brain dead, but his heart and lungs restarted. 11 days he lingered.

      Our family had discussed what measures to allow, and which ones to avoid. My father had been very specific just weeks before his death: “Don’t you dare let anyone ever keep me alive with machines!”

      When my mom got cancer, I (we) honored her end of life requests. Hospice was great, even though the last day was horrible for me.

      All families need to have the unpleasant discussions about end of life plans. Ultimately, we all have a right to die with dignity.

  9. jdmn17 says:

    Sarah Palin is the perfect example of how one can manage, in her case by attending multiple institutions of “higher learning”, to wind their way to a college degree without obtaining an education. I’m quite certain she will go down in history as someone akin to Joe McCarthy; a political freak of an unsettled period of our history. I am sure I have more to say but some lovely boards that once were my neighbors stately and beloved elm before some tiny beetles sent it to a premature death are sitting in a pick up truck outside and I need to get them loaded out so she can have a couple of tables as her memorial to it.

  10. Buddy McCue says:

    Very thorough, and very good article.

  11. Truth says:

    Justafarmer -- I am deeply impressed by this article. Very, very, very well done. You mentioned meticulously every step of the way she took regarding this issue, why she did it plus the damage and pain it has brought about. You are such a gifted writer and researcher that I can only hope you go on writing stories like this and publish them in books. This will ensure history is remembered correctly.

    However, I think there is one more important point: in Alaska about 230 people actually DIED due to to their lack of health care under Sarah Palin’s watch and policies.

    ***Edit: This is from DailyKos:

    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” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

    But as the Anchorage Daily News reported this last July, the situation in the state’s Medicare- and Medicaid-funded in-home elder care program became so bad that the federal government had to step in and force Alaska to make necessary improvements.

    In one 2 1/2 year stretch, 227 adults already getting services died while waiting for a nurse to reassess their needs. Another 27 died waiting for their initial assessment, to see if they qualified for help.

    The feds had been tipped off to the systemic problems by doctors and other health care providers, who found the state unresponsive when confronted with their incompetence. No other state faced comparable problems.

    UPDATE: Some have questioned whether the troubling two-and-a-half years during which the 254 neglected elderly people died coincided with Palin’s tenure as governor. According to the actual federal report (also see the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Focused Review of Senior and Disabilities Services Medicaid waiver and Personal Care Assistance programs webpage here), “The review covered the years 2006 through April of 2009.” Since Palin was elected Governor of Alaska in November 2006 and resigned on July 26, 2009 -- yes, she was in office.

    • moongal6 says:

      I Thank you for your insightful comments. I went on a rant about the citizen from Alaska and her own death panels. In fact, I thought it was the reason she QUIT.
      I am a recently retired ICD-9 Medical coder and insurance biller. I billed Medicare and Private insurance for the State of CA. What happened during the citizen’s tenure, had NEVER before happened. For the first time in Medicare and Medicaid’s history, Federal Funding was actually WITHDRAWN from a state due to poor management and inadequate administration of the two programs. She would hire people she thought were friends, allies, whatever. Bottom line, she hired incompetent people into positions they were never qualified to administer.
      I still do think that is why she quit, and when she got off the hook, remember Bush was still President, she knew she was the new teflon queen. Yes, she did have her own Death Panels.
      No wonder she feels so empowered, nothing negative STICKS to her.

    • jdmn17 says:

      As has been said by many more astute people than me. Sarah Palin has never met a fact she couldn’t ignore.

  12. UpstateSC says:

    Haven’t people died in Arizona because of Jan Brewer’s cuts to Medicaid and Medicare? Why hasn’t Sarah Palin™ blasted Brewer for those deaths? The GOP is real good using rhetorical terrorism (love that term!)to frame debates.

    • Khirad says:

      Yes, yes she did -- and is putting at-risk Arizonan live’s in jeopardy (at best).

      Quite frankly -- in that vein -- I loved the faux outrage -- OUTRAGE! -- over Obama using the word ‘enemy’ and Steve Cohen using ‘Nazi’.

      My question which I can’t resolve: Is this slightly self-aware defensiveness to cover their ass, or entirely self-aware opportunistic cynicism?

      Or… are they really that oblivious to their own behavior -- and forget what they did not hours before: again, and again, and again, and again, and again…

      Your call.

      • UpstateSC says:

        Honestly, I think that it’s a combination, some, including SP™, are that oblivious. They have such knee-jerk reactions to things, that they forget what they said and did before, even if it contradicts their current reaction. When it’s brought to their attention that they are flip-floppers, they try to spin it or even lie about it, so then fall into the defensiveness camp.

        Some are total cynics and hope that the rest of us are either dumb enough or lazy enough to not check out the accuracy of their statements and actions.

    • eileenleft says:

      To me there is something so inherently evil about SP, and yes, this “retorical terrorist” description is perfect. The bread and butter of Republican politics is class warfare and scapegoating, just like Al Queda. And Sarah Palin is their preferred method of delivery because the media will print and repeat everything she says.
      Sad times.

    • Because it is more important to get rid of “socialist” programs than to save lives. There does seem to be some sort of priority for wedge issues, but I would hate to have to make a flow-chart of that decision process.

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