A Death Panel, also known as "Death Council", is a group of people that would purportedly make life-or-death healthcare rationing decisions based on subjective criteria of a person's worth to society. The concept reexamined during the debate over the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") in 2009. Its foremost champion at the time was Sarah Palin, who may have started it with this post to Facebook.
Life or death outcomes from decisions about availability or non-availability of health care have been occurring throughout human history. In the United States these decisions ultimately arise from the free market system, both before and since the enactment of Obamacare. Under Obamacare, there has often been more government bureaucracy involved in the process, but it has always been complex.
The issue arose from the belief that, under Obamacare, doctors are required to discuss end-of-life options with elderly patients, perhaps encouraging them to end their lives. The claim, by Betsy McCaughey on a radio talk show in July, 2009, was that "Congress would make it mandatory ... That every five years, people in medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition." What actually happened was that doctors would be compensated for giving advice, to patients that request it, about end-of-life planning.
End-of-life planning, such as "living wills" and "do not resuscitate" (DNR) directives, has been around for a long time. The issue is whether doctors are compensated for these discussions. A huge amount of the "red tape" that drives medical decisions revolves around what actions are compensated for by insurance. The practice of medicine is largely driven by these policies. Regrettably, the amount of such red tape has been increasing, both before Obamacare and since. There are policies governing what kinds of surgeries insurance will pay for, and how long a hospital stay will be compensated, and so on. Only by going to completely privately funded healthcare, free of any kind of insurance, can one completely get around this.
A history of the debate may be found here.
- "WHAT IS AN OBAMA DEATH PANEL?" Obama Death Panel 2009. N.p., 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <http://www.obamadeathpanel2009.com/>.