Friday, August 21, 2009

VA: "Your Life, Your Choices"

As we learned in the past few months, the difference between having a pro-life president and a culture of death president could not be more clear.

It is night and day.

Case in point: The VA's Death Book, "Your Life, Your Choices."

From Jim Towey, the Wall Street Journal:

If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family."

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

...If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care, one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the Oval Office and pull the plug on "Your Life, Your Choices." He should make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens.

That is so well said, decisions should be "guided by VALUES that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens."

Life as a gift, not a burden.

(I hear Obama saying that if his daughters made a "mistake" and became pregnant, he wouldn't "want them punished with a baby.")

People make decisions about end-of-life care all the time.

The problem I have is government infringing on that freedom with guilt-inducing techniques, and being shoved into believing that your life isn't worth living.

Given that the government's bottom line is cutting costs on health care, it's easy to understand that people likely to consume more services, the elderly and the seriously and chronically ill, will be encouraged to "choose" to die. It's not rocket science.

You know what would really cut costs? Mandatory genetic testing.

Why allow the "defective" to be born?

The fact is this administration does not respect life.


Read "Your Life, Your Choices."


Rose's Blog said...

Great blog. Well written. Thanks for the good information. I just listened to Fox News Sunday and this is the first I've heard of this booklet. I thought maybe it was about do not resuscitate decisions but this is active euthanasia. You know, I kind of thought all those crazy ideas of the 60's disappeared but these people have held on to them and are determined to implement them into society.

Anonymous said...

Rose, these aren't crazy ideas from the sixties that people are trying to push on us. These are personal choices that are standard in living wills. If you want every kind of intervention, regardless of your condition, that's fine. Write it down so others know. If you don't, again fine. Write it down so others know. Makes sense to me. Best to do it ahead of time while you can.

Mary said...

Thank you, Rose.


There's a difference between making out a living will and being encouraged to believe that you're a burden to others and create doubt in a veteran's mind about the value of his or her life.

I think that's probably why Tammy Duckworth said that the VA death book is being revised. There are problems with it. Inexcusable that it remains online, even with that lame disclaimer that was slapped on it a couple of days ago.

Certainly, the Terri Schiavo tragedy and her court-sanctioned execution should have brought the importance of having a living will to the public's attention.

JJ said...

You are painfully foolish and misguided. Have you actually read "Your Life, Your Choices"? There is an entire section on discussing your deeply held religious/moral beliefs with the person you have charged with managing your health care if you cannot. The book doesn't encourage thinking about ending your life, but on communicating how you would like that end to arrive: Either with the most medical intervention that will keep you alive indefinitely or as little as possible that will allow you to go on to your reward (or not) as peacefully as possible.

@ Rose's Blog: The pamphlet, IF YOU READ IT, has nothing to do with euthanasia which, frankly, should be an individual's choice to make anyway. This begs the question: Do you know what euthanasia is? Is MORE THAN refusing care; it's actively seeking someone who is terminally ill's death in a peaceful way. (Which is also not wrong, if the person being euthanized requested it and cannot perform it him/herself.)

This isn't a debate you are having, but a demonization of people with different viewpoints using misinformation, inflammatory language and wilfull ignorance. Good luck with that.

JJ said...


What's funny is that throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars veterans' care has deteriorated yet little was said about how that might demoralize a veteran and lead him or her to believe that the very people s/he had fought to protect, had been wounded to protect, were encouraging him or her to kill himself or allow him or herself to die.

If you'd read the pamphlet, you'd realize how ridiculous your arguments are. You can't be forced to devalue your life if you're not already there. That speaks to a need for more and better psychological care for our veterans, not encouraging ignorance about one's medical choices.

Mary said...

I'm not "painfully foolish and misguided." My arguments aren't "ridiculous."

You should try expressing your disagreement in a civil manner.

sheldon1010101 said...

Mary complains
---- start complaint-------
I'm not "painfully foolish and misguided." My arguments aren't "ridiculous."

You should try expressing your disagreement in a civil manner.
--- stop complaint-------

Here's what I do if I'm criticized on the internet. And as a veteran of the bad old days before browsers --- it was a lot tougher.

1. I turn on my crap detector. And ask whether what I've written or what others have written fits with what I know of the world. Does this make sense?

2. I check if the criticism is correct. In particular, I look for information in places that are likely to disagree with what I'm most comfortable.

3. If possible, I look for original documentation.

4. If I still think I'm right I explain so, in detail. If I'm wrong or what I wrote needs clarification, I clarify or apologize. If I'm not sure anymore, I say so. Because I'm careful and follow these rules, I rarely had to apologize.

5. If I'm 100% positive that I'm right, I sometimes make fun of the other guy.

You didn't do any of this. Your response is to say that you haven't been treated nicely. And put out a plea for civil manners.

You ain't gonna like what I have to say.--- but I'll be kinder than you deserve, you might learn something.

There's been weeks of death panel lies. But that is becoming less effective as even death panel Betsy admits there aren't death panels only...So what springs up, but the death book.

Turn on your crap detector. What are the chances that a government approved booklet is going to be pro-euthanasia or pro-death or be out of line with similar materials from elsewhere? If you're not a total prisoner of the right-wing echo chamber then you've got to think that this isn't likely.

2. Is the criticism accurate? I look at enemy web sites such as or really high quality blogs on this topic such as Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. If you care about what is true and what is not true, then you've got to seek out opposing views. You've got to escape the echo chamber --- particularly if you're putting your reputation on the line.
Here's a simple guide-== for media criticism from democratic view go to
for criticism from republican right wing I haven''t seen a lot of quality --- there's Kincaild's AIM and Bozell's media research center.

3. There's no evidence you've read the original document. It's available all over the web.

4. You didn't pick any of these options, you just complained.

5. Doesn't apply.

You complain that you weren't treated civilly.

A couple of answers.
First, you are propagating gross distortions on a serious topic with the intent to influence others.
Second, before propagating serious distortions, you didn't do any research beyond parroting what people with similar ideological views said.

So if you ask me, your whole post is uncivil. But that's just a gut response to your original posting.

If you had written:

"I've looked at the booklet and here it says in context "abc" and here it says in context "def". Therefore, the booklet does not present choices fairly"

then I and I suspect most others would treat you more civilly, even if you are just as wrong.

Why? Because you've made a good faith effort to discover and report what's true and what's not true.

If all you want to do is mouth the lies and distortions of others then having your ideas merely called ridiculous is very, very kind.

Mary said...


As a rule, when I respond to something in the comments section of my blog, I don't write a treatise.

If someone raises an issue that I want to address in length, whether it's to agree or disagree, I make it the topic of a new post.

I have a problem with the level of discourse on the Internet. Some comments I receive are beyond vile, misogynistic and filled with expletives. That's why I use comment moderation.

It's the option I have exercised.