Shortly after telling Americans that some opponents are trying to "scare the heck out of folks" by misleading them about his health care reform efforts, President Obama told a town hall audience in New Hampshire that he is "not in favor" of so-called "death panels" in which the government would decide who does and does not qualify for care to keep them alive.
The notion that the president and Congressional Democrats are seeking to institute such panels has been pushed by former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and some activists.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) put out a statement last month claiming the health care legislation "may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign. This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law."
Some Republicans have disavowed the "death panel" claim, which several media outlets have noted is false. It was among the "10 Health Care Myths" debunked on this site last week. The provision cited by critics, the president said today, would allow Medicare to pay doctors to counsel those seeking information about end-of-life care issues, such as living wills and hospice care.
It would not, he said, "basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore."
Mr. Obama noted that a Republican, Johnny Isakson, was an initial sponsor of the provision. The president said lawmakers "very sensibly thought this was something that would expand people's options."
Isakson called the notion that the provision meant euthanasia "nuts." He later disavowed the president's comments, however, writing in a statement, "I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies."
In a Facebook post Friday, Palin wrote this: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
The president said in a response to such claims that Americans should not listen to efforts by those seeking to "scare and mislead the American people."
"Where we disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that don't bear any resemblance to anything that's actually being proposed," he said.