THE BLOG
09/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Firing Squads and Death Panels

"Akron Woman Dies 19 Times and Lives" was the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal in 1961. That was my grandmother. She was one of the first people a pacemaker was used on. Doctors didn't pull her plug, they plugged her in, jolting her heart like jump-starting a car. She survived for five more years, running up her total deaths to 29. The last time she died, she died.

My mother's birthday is coming up soon. No one is sure how old she is. When I asked her age, her response was, "What difference does it make? I'm too old to die young."

A lot of very sincere people believe that if Obama's health care reform bill passes, old people will essentially be facing death panels and denied care.

"I could die any time you know," my mother said. "It won't be long before I'm called in front of the death panels. They're not going to decide to keep an old woman alive. First the death panels decide, then they put you in front of a firing squad. You tell your kids, the government is going to kill their grandma."

"Do you really believe that?" I asked.

"Do you really believe I believe that? I'm old, not stupid," she replied.

My mother reads three newspapers a day and watches the news constantly. "These people compare the president to Hitler? Hitler was not known for his health care initiatives. But I'm much more afraid of those who show up at town hall meetings with guns strapped to their legs - they look like the death panels to me."

It's the aberrant behavior that gets television attention rather than an intelligent discussion of the real issues. Want to get interviewed on television? Yell irrational "Hitler-Nazi-Socialist-Death Panel-birther" noise loud enough to disrupt any meaningful discussion. When that is no longer effective, strap a gun to your leg. That could get you a segment on Chris Matthews' show. Once that becomes old news, carry an assault rifle - that will get you air time. The ante is always being upped.

It will be no surprise when someone who is exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms becomes unhinged enough to start shooting people who are exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly.

Much of the news media, instead of challenging the deliberate lies and misinformation, lends credibility to them by giving air time to the most outrageous points of view. Sensationalism drives ratings but is often at odds with the truth.

There are constant falsehoods circulating that try to link the Obama health care plan to the U.K. or Canadian model, which in turn tries to scare people into thinking that what allegedly happens there will happen here.

Claims of the health care system in the U.K. denying care to the elderly are false. The National Health System Constitution provides comprehensive health care service to all, irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

Claims that Dr. Anne Doig, the new head of the Canadian Medical Association stated, "The system is about to implode. The system is going to fail," referring to the Canadian Health Care System, are totally misleading. Her statement was made in response to a question about accusations from groups in the U.S. about what they believe is wrong with the Canadian system - she was quoting them, not stating her beliefs. That statement has since been taken out of context and distributed to many groups in the U.S. as evidence of Canada's failing health care system. This is another example of the endless hailstorm of misdirection and misinformation clouding serious debate.

No health care system is perfect. Our health care system has severe problems. There are honest disagreements to be debated based on fact, not the tabloid fiction we are exposed to on a daily basis. The cost of ignoring the actual issues, both human and financial, is dangerously high.

Since 1970, health care costs in the United States have gone from $352 to $7,000 per person, per year. This is the highest annual cost increase of any sector of our economy. Who benefits from these constantly increasing costs? It's not the citizens. The U.S. health care system is ranked 37th in the world by the World Health Organization. The country ranks 47th in the world for life expectancy. Contrary to the latest misinformation being put out there, these numbers relate to health care and do not factor in stats for murder or fatal car crashes. However, we do rank first in the world in fatal car crashes

Who benefits? Who puts their money where their money is? The top three lobbying groups ranked by money spent to influence policy/opinion this year are:


Pharmaceuticals/Health Products
: $134,458,183

Oil & Gas: $82,102,040

Insurance: $81,528,794

(Center for Responsive Politics)

Who suffers? Most of us. Providing health insurance is the largest growing cost for employers. Many small businesses have either cut back or eliminated coverage. The burden falls on individuals and their families, which means the number of uninsured will grow as health care becomes less and less affordable. Couple that with the established pattern of cost increases per year and it is estimated that health care costs will double by 2017.

It's ironic that the same critics who claim the government cannot run anything efficiently are concerned that the government is going to run a health care system that is so cost-efficient insurance companies won't be able to compete.

Health care should not be a political issue. It's a civil rights issue. The people who have the least are constantly being manipulated by those who have the most and don't want to lose it.

"Facts don't matter," said my mother. "If there's anything I've learned in my 90 years, it's that people believe what they want to believe. How can we as a nation tolerate armed thugs at town hall meetings? It's crazy."

One person's crazy is another's reality.