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The Source: CMS Proposal Could Bring Back "Death Panel" Talk


In 2009, the Affordable Care Act was still a bill making its way through congress.  One proposal, which many considered modest, was trying to mandate repayments for doctors who talk to and counsel patients about advanced directives and end-of-life care.  

Advocates said it offered a voluntary incentive to fully inform patients about the human cost of their treatments, and that it offered options.

Critics of the program – largely from the right– had big concerns. 

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was rallying people behind the idea that the decisions regarding end-of-life care would be taken from individuals and given to the government in the form of "Death Panels" as a result of these changes.

Writing on her Facebook page, the one-time Vice-Presidential candidate lamented that her own son–who is cognitively disabled­–might be dispatched by such a panel of doctors who would deem him unworthy of care.

The repayment plan mandate was scrapped in the senate.

Of course the idea was patently false and found by Politifact to be 2009's "Lie of the Year," but being true and going viral are not mutually exclusive, and that whopper got around. According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of people surveyed knew something about death panels.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services proposed payments for end of life and advanced directives once again. We take a look back at what the death panel labels did to palliative care in the U.S. and look forward at what could happen this time around.


  • Dr. Jason Morrow, palliative care specialist and medical ethicist for the University of Texas Health Science Center and University Health Systems
  • Dr. Don Shumacher, pyschiatrist and CEO at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org