POLITICS
10/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Top Health Care Opponent: No PhD In Medicine, No Scholarly Articles On Health Care

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg has profiled Betsy McCaughey, trying to square the one-time Republican official's work on infection deaths and in academia with her vitriolic, unsupported attacks on health care reform.

For the last few years, Ms. McCaughey has worked in a relatively quiet, (mostly) noncontroversial fight against hospital infection death. Her campaign has drawn some bipartisan support and won credit in New York for helping to push a law requiring hospitals to report infection rates. [...]

Her work has, however, proved to be a boon to opponents of Mr. Obama's health care plans, if occasionally judged as over the line even by some of them. .

She incorrectly stated in July that a Democratic bill in the House would "absolutely require" counseling sessions for Medicare recipients "that will tell them how to end their life sooner," drawing a "Pants on Fire" rating from the Politifact fact-checking Web site; her false assertion that the presidential health adviser Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel believes "medical care should be reserved for the nondisabled" helped inspire former Gov. Sarah Palin's discredited warning about "death panels" deciding who is "worthy of health care."

However, health care consultant Michael L. Millenson dug into McCaughey's history and found that there isn't much of a contradiction at all. Her Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID) is stacked with Republicans and does little in the way of research or lobbying. And her supposed scholarly writing is just opinion pieces and analysis.

As someone who's been involved in the patient safety movement since the mid-1990s, I've admired her pugnacity and plainspokenness. Unfortunately, when I decided to look a lot more closely at RID, it turned out that Good Betsy was not quite "the real McCoy" either. The assertions she makes about herself and her organization teeter at the border between exaggeration and being deliberately misleading.

It's a good cause - at least on paper. What a shame that even when Bad Betsy isn't bashing health care reform, Good Betsy doesn't seen to have found the time to do anything of significance.

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