Far-Right Fearmongering on Death is Nothing New

09/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fear is what the far right is. Fear is what they do. The same people who bring you fear and misinformation about sexuality education, contraception, family planning and abortion are once again stirring up fear about death.

"We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

There is no better way to stir up fear than to talk about death -- unless you combine talk about government and death. Most people don't want to think about death. The far right tried this in 1998 and 1999 in Congress when the party that touts "states' rights" tried to overturn the popular will of voters who twice passed Oregon's Death with Dignity law. The far right tried it twice in the federal courts, ultimately losing a 2006 Supreme Court case in a 6-3 decision allowing Oregon's now 12-year-old Death with Dignity law to stand. Last year Washington voters made their Death with Dignity law the top vote getter in the state, at 59%, besting even President Barack Obama.

The last time the far right stirred up public fear about death they used extraordinary means to prevent a husband from carrying out his wife's wishes not to be left in a persistent vegetative state, intervening in a family's personal and private life decision. Remember Terri Schiavo? The GOP lost their House majority after voters saw how they exploited that situation, so for Sarah Palin and others to be scaring people now about a "death panel" in health care reform legislation demonstrates they care less about dying people than they do about cheap political manipulations.

Voters are consistently rejecting far right efforts to stir up fear about death, and at every turn embracing policies that put more control in the hands of terminally ill people by demanding improvements to end-of-life care.

The proposed health care reform allows Medicare to cover a consultation about end-of-life wishes so that individuals and families - if they want to - can make these very personal and private life decisions and put them in writing while they are of sound mind and body. Terri Schiavo had only told her husband, never written her wishes down, thus opening the door for political exploitation.

Fascinating how the far right can cry foul both when Ms. Schiavo's wishes were not in writing, and also when efforts to get them in writing for more people are proposed. Most everyone agreed the silver lining of the Schiavo publicity was more people got Advance Directives, Living Wills, and in other ways communicated their wishes to loved ones when they were not faced with an emergency or incapable of communicating.

When was the last time you were in the hospital for anything and weren't asked to fill out forms about your end-of-life wishes "just in case"? While unnerving contemplating your death while awaiting an outpatient procedure, it makes sense. When was the last time you visited a friend or relative who was close to death without being relieved to learn they had clearly expressed their wishes to the doctors, whatever they might be. Supporting the dying person and honoring their wishes is the goal of all major efforts to improve end-of-life care, and of every friend or family member at a dying person's bedside.

No surprise, the same people who routinely promote misinformation and scare tactics about abortion, contraception and sexuality education are also behind this latest effort to scare you at the end-of-life in order to derail serious health care reform. The Institute for Southern Studies reports that anti-choice Rep. Sonny Isakson (R-GA) was the architect of the bogus "death panel" intended to scare people. Perhaps that's why fellow Georgia Republican Congressman Jack Kingston knew it was a "scare tactic" as he told Bill Maher.

Why is it that in life's most personal and private moments - sexuality, conception, birth and the dying process, the party that says it governs least always governs most? Why does the party of rugged individualists like Sarah Palin never trust individual women to make reproductive health decisions, and why now, do they distrust all of us to know what is best for us and our families when it comes to our death?

Sort of makes you wonder, if they will lie to you about sex, birth and death, what won't they lie to you about?