Death panels? Certainly. I sit on one, and am subject to another. But, today, it’s all OK.
How is that so? How are death panels OK? Well, let’s start by defining the term death panel. A death panel is an entity with final authority to make decisions over the course of treatment, including the ending of treatment and removal of life support.
So, we do not want those. Right?
Well, death panels have been around since the close of Eden. In earlier times, in more advanced societies, panels consisted of the patient and his or her close family. Together, they decided how their collective, limited resources would be allocated to healthcare. And, at some point, and in many cases, the decision to reduce or end treatment had to be made—such being the human condition.
These panels functioned without government control—and they functioned well. Life and death were, for the most part, a family matter.
Recently, though, the structure of the panels has changed due to the ever-increasing state. The panel I sit on—for my parents—is structured under a legal contract—the power of attorney. This agreement purportedly provides me and my sister control of our parents’ well-being, should the need arise. But, in reality, the state has created a myriad of laws and regulations governing healthcare, including the ending of such care. So state has, in essence, appropriated at least one seat on the panel.
The same power my parents have given to me and my sister is the very same power I have given to my wife and children—to lord over my last days, basing decisions on their limited resources and other concerns, within the constraints imposed by the state, of course. An enormous power and responsibility. Nevertheless, it works as best as can be expected given an intrusive state. We are OK—not in the best situation, but OK nonetheless.
As stated above, the hand of the state has intruded into a very personal, family matter. And with each intervention, life—and death—has gotten more difficult to address. But these infringements on liberty are nothing compared to what may await us all in the near future.
Death panels are not per se evil. They are required given the realities of limited resources. However, death panels become evil when the state gains control. Replace the concerns of the family with the bony finger of a government agency and we all need to fear.
So how does the state justify its growth in such intimate matters? And, more importantly, why do its citizens allow it?
The modern state survives on one great lie: the state claims that it holds the power to end the human condition resulting from limited resources. An example of how this plays out: A parent is concerned about burdening his or her child in old age. The state comes along and says it will bear that burden, and it will do so at no direct cost to the parent or child. But the bargain is Faustian. In exchange for bearing the burden, the state claims the authority to make final decisions regarding how long and to what extent the burden will be borne.
And, most importantly, the state does not say that, in the end, it bears the burden by burdening the child. This is true because the state produces nothing, it only thieves what it can. So to bear the burden of the parent, it taxes the efforts of the child.
As a result, the parent and child gain thing, but liberty is lost.
In the coming years, I expect to see government-controlled panels first allocate only government resources (thieved from the taxpayers, of course), so the individual and his or her family will still be able to supplement as desired. But the progression will be toward more government control, until the point is reached where the state no longer allows individuals to trump its decisions. And when that occurs, death panels will truly be the death panels we fear.
Death panels are a reality due to the never-ending reality of limited resources. But death panels are not the issue. The issue is the state.
This is always true: A thing per se is not necessarily evil, but that thing in conjunction with the state are always evil.
Jim Fedako (send him email) is a business analyst and homeschooling father of seven who lives in Lewis Center, OH.