In order to defend his aggressive embrace of the false notion that health care reform would create "death panels" -- 2009's lie of the year -- Glenn Beck engaged in a bit of revisionist history, claiming that death panels were not related to consultations with physicians about end-of-life care. Beck's latest effort to push the completely discredited notion came during a particularly vicious attack on Keith Olbermann, who, in a recent "special comment" on his MSNBC show, cited his own experience with his hospitalized father to debunk the death panel falsehood. At one point, Beck stated, "Here's a guy -- he's either so twisted inside that he really, truly doesn't get it." Beck further stated that under death panels, Olbermann's father would already be dead.
But I digress. After repeatedly noting Olbermann's special comment, Beck purported to refute the connection between death panels and end-of-life consultations:
OLBERMANN [audio clip]: And as I left the hospital that night, the full impact of these last six months washed over me. What I had done -- conferring with the resident in ICU, the conversation about my father's panicky, not-in-complete-control-of-his faculties demand that all treatment now stop, about the options and the consequences and the compromise, the sedation, the help for a brave man who just needed a break.
That conversation, that one, was what these ghouls who are walking into Blair House tomorrow morning decided to call death panels. Your right to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor, and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options are when Dad says "kill me" -- or what your options are when Dad is in a coma and can't tell you a damn thing.
BECK: No, that's not --
OLBERMANN: Or what your options are when everybody is healthy --
BECK: That is not what a death panel is, Keith Olbermann. You have the right right now to do that. You just did it. What a death panel is, is not allowing your father to have the access to health care that your father just had. A death panel picks and chooses based on their age, based on, "Well, we just need to -- we just need to be able to -- your father has had a good life. He was 25 once, now we've got 25-year-olds that need this medical attention, and your father, he's had a good life." That's what a death panel is -- not being able to conference with his doctor.
In fact, that's exactly what a "death panel" was, as it was originally conceptualized by Sarah Palin, who coined the phrase on her Facebook page with the statement that under Democratic health care reform, "my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel.' " Palin's spokeswoman later clarified that Palin was specifically referring to the House bill's "Advance Care Planning Consultation" provision. Her spokesperson issued that clarification days before Beck adopted the claim:
A death panel for her son Trig. That's quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that's quite a statement.
Now, Beck either knew what a death panel was, or he aggressively promoted its existence out of ignorance. Either way, he's completely wrong on the substance of his latest attack -- death panels were directly connected to end-of-life counseling from the outset.
In his special comment, Olbermann went into great detail about the conservative effort to portray a Democratic proposal that would have reimbursed doctors for periodically discussing treatment options with their patients and creating living wills and treatment plans (transcript from Nexis):
OLBERMANN: Your right to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options are when Dad says "kill me" or what your options are when Dad is in a coma and can't tell you a damn thing, or what your options are when everybody is healthy and happy and coherent and you're just planning ahead your right to have the guidance and the reassurance of a professional who can lay that out for you that's a quote "death panel."
That, right now, is the legacy of the protests of these sub-humans who get paid by the insurance companies, who say these things for their own political gain or like that one fiend or money. For money Betsy McCaughey told people that this conversation about life and death and relief and release, and also about no, keep treating him no matter what happens, until the nation runs out of medicine, she told people it's a death panel and she did that for money.
It's a life panel. A life panel, it can save the pain of the patient and the family it is the difference between you guessing what happens next, and you being informed about what probably will, and that's the difference between you sleeping at night or second-guessing and third-guessing and thirtieth-guessing. And it can also be the place where the family says 'we want you to keep him alive no matter what, we believe in miracles' and the doctor saying yes.
No matter how hard conservatives try to change its meaning, that provision is exactly what brought forth the "death panels" smear.