The collective memory that drives the fear of “death panels”

Ken Hechtman, VFR’s leftist reader in Canada, writes:

A spectre is haunting Obamacare … the spectre of Terri Schaivo.

I have to wonder, would the “death panel” myth be getting quite the traction it is (supposedly 45 percent of the country believes it despite all evidence otherwise) if the left hadn’t been quite so eager to see Terri Schaivo die four years ago? Maybe the death panel story is as persistent as it is because it slots seamlessly into a larger truth that people already know.

LA replies:


But, if I may ask, would you have said that to anyone but me?

Ken Hechtman replies:

OK, here’s the thing I wouldn’t say to anyone else: I get why the right had to jump in the middle of what should have been a private family dispute. You’re the pro-life movement. You had to get involved. We’re not the pro-death movement, we’re the pro-choice movement. If it’s legally possible for the family to do whatever it is the sum of their individual consciences tells them to do—our work is complete.

LA replies:

But that explanation of leftist motives doesn’t work. Read this VFR entry and my FrontPageMag article on the Schiavo case that it links to.

Ken Hechtman replies:

You wrote:

Liberals famously regard marriage as an ever-changing institution, to be reshaped to suit changing human needs. Why then do the liberals treat the Schiavo’s marriage, and Michael’s rights proceeding therefrom, as written in stone, even though it has long since come to an end? Why don’t the liberals simply call on Michael to divorce Terri and let the Schindlers take care of her?

This is exactly what a reasonable man would have done under the circumstances. He would have signed a piece of paper making his father-in-law sole guardian and next-of-kin and then walked away. He did not deserve political support for refusing to do that.

To restate what I said four years ago, the convention that designates one single family member as “next of kin” with 100 percent of the decision making power exists for the convenience of hospitals and specifically for the convenience of hospital liability lawyers. That convention doesn’t deserve the left’s political support either. It’s obvious why this is the best arrangement for hospitals. It’s not obvious why it’s the best arrangements for families, especially in end-of-life situations. If there’s one person in the room who doesn’t want to pull the plug, it doesn’t matter if they’re an estranged third cousin nobody’s seen in 20 years, you don’t pull the plug.

LA replies:

Ok, so your last comment returns to your opening point: that the left was pushing death for Terry Schiavo, and this has left a lingering fear of the left regarding giving government power over end of life situations.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 23, 2009 04:05 PM | Send

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