First off, it must be said—Tammy Duckworth is one brave lady who deserves the thanks of our nation. Ms. Duckworth was a helicopter pilot in Iraq who was wounded in 2004, losing both legs and the partial use of one arm. She went on to run unsuccessfully for Congress and is now an assistant secretary at the Veterans Administration.
But she turned in a pretty disgraceful performance yesterday on Fox News’ regular Sunday news show. Her job was to defend the VA’s “Your Life, Your Choices” booklet for veterans—colloquially, and not without good reasons, known as the “Death Book for Veterans.”
The existence of the book had been revealed in a Wall Street Journal piece the previous week by Jim Towey, White House director of faith-based initiatives from 2002 to 2006 and now an advocate for the aging. Here is the nut graff:
“‘Your Life, Your Choices’ presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”
“The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to ‘shake the blues.’ There is a section which provocatively asks, ‘Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?’ There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as ‘I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.’
“When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?”
It probably doesn’t take much to push you over the line if you’re already suffering from a grievous injury. It should be noted that the author of the pamphlet is Dr. Robert Pearlman, an advocate of assisted suicide. The implications for our current healthcare debate are obvious. The Bush administration reportedly pulled the Pearlman book, and the Obama administration reportedly re-introduced it.
I say “reportedly” because Duckworth’s argument was that the booklet is merely a leftover from the Bush administration! Chris Wallace repeatedly told her that the information doesn’t bear this out—refuting what must be the oddest “blame Bush” charge of them all. Duckworth also pointed out that wounded veterans also could read a book by Mr. Towey but that Towey’s book cost $5. She said this at least three and perhaps more times. I’d be more than willing to pay $5 to be persuaded that suicide isn’t the way to go, that (as Duckworth shows so dramatically) life doesn’t end because one has sustained a terrible injury. Duckworth shows this in her life, but in her words yesterday, she appeared to be dishonest and disingenuous.
Meanwhile Carol Platt Liebau has an excellent piece about her 83-year-old father’s death, and she wonders what would have happened to this vibrant man under Obama care. Lots of folks are beginning to have these concerns. A friend of mine said yesterday he was having a knee operation–and then joked that he wanted to get it done before somebody told him he was too old to matter.
Macabre humor. Real concerns.