Paul Rahe: Obama to veterans: Drop dead!

Hillsdale College history professor Paul Rahe writes:

When I wrote my Power Line post “Obama to Elderly: Drop Dead,” I had no idea that the Obama administration had already in one sphere implemented the macabre policy embedded within the various drafts of the health care bill, but now I know better.
In an important column published in the Wall Street Journal last week, St. Vincent College President and former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives Jim Towey spills the beans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is circulating among those in VA hospitals a 52-page end-of-life planning document entitled Your Life, Your Choices. Written by an advocate of “assisted suicide,” revised with the help of the Hemlock Society, and available online in pristine form here, it is a real eye-opener – so much so, that after the publication of Tovey’s piece, the Veterans Admini-stration tried to cover its tracks by posting this disclaimer: “The following is a 1997 publication that was produced under VA IIR Grant No. 94-050, ‘Development of an Advance Care Planning Workbook,’ 4/01/95 – 3/31/97. The document is currently undergoing revision for release in VA. The revised version will be available soon.”
As Towey reports, this booklet, which was originally written with support from a federal grant under the Clinton administration, “presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political ‘push poll.’”
“For example,” he writes, “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.”

Towey is right to ask, “When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?” And he is right to add, “This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable.”
What makes things even worse, he adds, is that a Veterans Administration directive issued on July 2 of this year (which you can find here) “instructs its primary care physicians” on p. 8 “to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’”
Let me suggest that readers of this blog download the pamphlet, print it out, read it, and take it to their churches and synagogues for review by their priests, ministers, rabbis, and prayer leaders. They should also take it to their Senators and Congressmen, and they should pose to them a simple question: “Is this what you have in mind for us?”
In “Obama’s tyrannical ambition,” I drew attention to the propensity of Progressives to embrace on putatively utilitarian grounds public policy positively criminal in nature:

When “scientific racism” was the rage, Woodrow Wilson segregated the civil service, gave “The Birth of a Nation” his imprimatur, and thereby promoted Jim Crow in the North. He campaigned on behalf of the sterilization of criminals and insane asylum inmates, and the progressive jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes conferred judicial sanction on this gross violation of individual rights. All of this was done in the name of the public good. The rights of individuals were made to give way to a utilitarian calculus.
Scientific racism is no longer in fashion, at least for the time being; and we have thank-fully become chary of sterilizing those who reside in our mental hospitals and prisons. But we have no principle restraining us from succumbing to either propensity, for our masters are still inclined to sacrifice the rights of individuals to what elite opinion at any given moment understands as the public good.

I had no idea at the time that something comparable was already underway. The hour is, indeed, late.

Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College. He is the author, most recently, of Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect.

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