After previously debunking end-of-life falsehoods, ABC and AP portray them as he said/she said

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF & LILY YAN

On August 13, ABC's Kate Snow and the Associated Press both characterized the established fact that end-of-life counseling under the House health care reform bill would be voluntary as simply something that President Obama "contends." But both ABC and the AP had previously reported that under the bill, such counseling would indeed be voluntary, and both had previously debunked Sarah Palin's false claim that the provision would create a "death panel."

ABC's Snow: Obama "contends" that the "provision is voluntary"

Reporting on Palin's August 12 Facebook post titled "Concerning the 'death panels,' " Snow portrayed the issue as a he said/she said debate, telling viewers that "the president contends the provision is voluntary."

From the August 13 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America:

SNOW: Sarah Palin is taking on President Obama in the battle over health care. In a new Facebook posting, the former governor says the president is, quote, making light of concerns about a provision in the House bill that would pay doctors for consulting with patients about end-of-life care. Palin says because of pressure to reduce health care spending, it's no wonder some might view those consultations as a way to minimize end-of-life care. But the president contends the provision is voluntary, and no one will force a senior to make choices based on cost.

Just one hour earlier: ABC's Johnson reported that the provision is "entirely voluntary"

ABC medical editor earlier explained that provision makes end-of-life counseling "entirely voluntary." Less than an hour before Snow portrayed the fact that end-of-life counseling would be voluntary as simply Obama's argument, ABC chief medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson told anchor Chris Cuomo that "the idea about death panels -- that this plan is going to decide who lives and dies" is "not at all legitimate." Johnson continued, "What is in one of the versions is a so-called advanced care planning provision, allowing patients who want it -- entirely voluntary -- to have a consultation with their health care professionals every five years to talk about directives and living wills and things like that that might help them plan for the future as they're getting older." He added, "But I stress, it's entirely voluntary. It's not at all mandatory."

Johnson also stated:

JOHNSON: Now, most polling shows that seniors want this desperately from their doctors, and yet only very few get it. So this will help, because it will pay doctors and others to take the time, make the effort to do it. So I think when seniors really find out what this is really about, they're gonna welcome it. Nobody wants to end up in the ICU with tubes sticking out of them, simply prolonging death. And I think this provision will help that a lot.

Cuomo then asked, "So the choice that you make is not tied to what kind of money you get from insurance?" to which Johnson responded, "Not at all."

Snow herself has previously called "death panel" claim "misinformation"

Snow on World News: "The facts? The provision would create no such panel"; "death panel" claim is "misinformation."

SNOW: At issue, a 10-page section of a thousand-page House health care reform bill. It would reimburse a doctor for talking with a patient every five years about what kind of care they want near the end of life. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin called this "downright evil," asserting her parents and her child with Down syndrome would have to stand in front of an Obama death panel so his bureaucrats can decide whether they're worthy of health care.

The facts? The provision would create no such panel. It calls only for a consultation between the individual and a practitioner. So how did this misinformation start? [ABC's World News, 8/10/09]

Snow on ABCNews.com: "Health Care 'Death Panels' a Myth." Snow wrote a virtually identical report for an August 10 ABCNews.com article, featuring the headline "Health Care 'Death Panels' a Myth" and the subheadline "Claims That House Health Care Reform Bill Would Create 'Death Panels' Are Untrue."

AP: "Obama contends" provision "would only authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care if they want it"

From the August 13 AP article:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claims President Barack Obama is making light of concerns over what she has called "death panels" determining or denying care in the Democratic health care proposal.

Palin makes the claim in a Facebook posting Wednesday evening.

Obama on Tuesday said the Democratic health care legislation would not create "death panels" to deny care to frail seniors -- or "basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore," as the president put it.

Rather, Obama contends the provision that led to such talk would only authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care if they want it.

But Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, says the provision reads otherwise and will lead to health care rationing.

AP itself has previously reported counseling provision is voluntary

AP itself has reported "provision ... authorize[s] Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes." In an August 11 article titled "FACT CHECK: No 'death panel' in health care bill," the AP reported, "Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes" [emphasis added].

AP itself has reported that "Palin and other critics are wrong" about "death panel." In its fact check, the AP also reported that "Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a 'death panel.' Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong."

From the AP's August 11 fact-check article:

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a "death panel." Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.

Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:

[...]

Q: Is anything required?

Monsignor Charles Fahey, 76, a Catholic priest who is chairman of the board of the National Council on Aging, a nonprofit service and advocacy group, says no.

"We have to make decisions that are deliberative about our health care at every moment," Fahey said. "What I have said is that if I cannot say another prayer, if I cannot give or get another hug, and if I cannot have another martini - then let me go."

End-of-life care counseling provision would, in fact, be voluntary

Provision calls for Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 -- the provision Palin cited -- amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [waysandmeans.house.gov, accessed 8/13/09]

By ignoring previously reported facts, ABC, AP continue media pattern of advancing "death panel" claims

Numerous media conservatives have advanced myth that provision mandates counseling that would pressure seniors to die. On July 16, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would "absolutely require" end-of-life counseling for seniors "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." Since then, numerous media figures -- including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh -- have repeated versions of McCaughey's claim, in some cases even after the falsehood was debunked and McCaughey herself backtracked.

Fox News personalities have advanced Palin's "death panel" claim. Although the claim has been repeatedly and widely debunked, Fox News anchors, hosts, and contributors, including Newt Gingrich, Michelle Malkin, Brian Kilmeade, Glenn Beck, Andrew Napolitano, Bret Baier, and Shannon Bream have adopted Palin's "death panel" term or have advanced or expressed support for her assertion.

Politico uncritically referenced Palin's "death panel" claim. In an August 10 Politico article, Andy Barr reported "Palin's claim last week that the Democratic health care plan is 'evil' and would create a 'death panel' to decide the fate of children like her youngest son, Trig, who has Down syndrome," without noting that her claim is false.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
ABC, Associated Press
Person
Kate Snow
Show/Publication
Good Morning America
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