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Oregon grandma told by state it would pull her plug -- under Obamacare will you be next?

By 8.18.09

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So.

The infamous Section 1233 "death panel" has been pulled from the Senate version of the House ObamaCare Bill. Or so goes the tale as this is written.

Does this mean no more government rationing coming our way?

Naaaaah. This entire concept of ObamaCare is based on the principle of government rationing. The President has even jokingly talked about unplugging Grandma.

But "unplugging Grandma" is not much of a joke if you were Barbara Wagner. Who?

Barbara Wagner was a waitress. She drove a school bus. She worked as a home health care aide. Along the way as she worked her fingers to the bone she was married, had kids, was divorced, became a grandmother, then a great-grandmother.

Barbara also smoked cigarettes, and eventually this developed into lung cancer.

So far, so good and so bad. Good -- the jobs, the kids, the family. The bad -- the illness. Everyone doesn't smoke, everyone will die. Most will have a health issue somewhere.

Yet in death Barbara Wagner -- who died in the last year at 64 -- may well be the cross to the Dracula that is ObamaCare. (A hat tip here to Mark Levin, who brought attention to Barbara's plight on pages 109-110 of his bestselling book Liberty and Tyranny.)

Barbara, you see, lived in Oregon. The state where there are two interesting government programs.

The first is something called the "Oregon Health Plan." Here is the single sentence the OHP uses to describe its mission:

To plan and implement medical programs assuring access to basic care for eligible clients.

In another words, OHP is a state-run plan that is not unlike what the ObamaCare advocates refer to as the "public option" in the sense that the State -- as in the state of Oregon in this case -- is "assuring access" to care for those in economic distress.

There is also another law in Oregon (the only law of its kind in the 50 states) called the "Death with Dignity Law." Again, let's rely on Oregon to define this:

On October 27, 1997 Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act which allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

Meaning, if you wish to take your own life, the state will lend a hand. No unseemly smothering with a pillow or anything like that. Just a nice, simple drugged out exit with barbiturates. Not unlike the way the King of Pop was popped. Snoozing one minute, on into the eternal comfort the next. Free at last, free at last, thank the State Almighty -- free at last!

You can already see what's coming, can't you?

As things worsened for Barbara, she found herself acclimating to wearing an oxygen tube wrapped around her face and running into her nose. The State paid -- and paid as well for a wheelchair, for chemotherapy, radiation and a special bed. For a while things were better. Remission seemed at hand. Then, one day, it didn't. What John Wayne called the Big C had returned with a vengeance. Yet there was a glimmer -- a faint glimmer but a glimmer nonetheless -- of hope for Barbara. That glimmer was a drug called Tarceva, and her doctor recommended it to Barbara.

So the request went in to the State of Oregon -- let's call it "The State" for short -- and, as the sun rising in the East can be predicted with a fair degree of certainty -- what do you think The State said to Barbara the waitress, the school bus driver, the health care aide, the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother?

Let's let Barbara herself tell the story in her own words in a report at the time from ABC News:

"It was horrible. I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won't give you the medication to live."

A letter in the mail. An unsigned letter in the mail. A letter from The State "that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won't give you the medication to live."

Now. Does any of this ring a bell?

Listen/read carefully here:

* The words of Barbara Wagner: "I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won't give you the medication to live."

* The words of President Barack Obama: "There's going to be some disagreement, but if there's broad agreement that, in this situation the blue pill works better than the red pill, and it turns out the blue pills are half as expensive as the red pill, then we want to make sure that doctors and patients have that information available to them."

In the case of Barbara Wagner, the Obama approach was followed, literally and figuratively to the letter. The State decided the "blue pill" that would take Barbara's life was, in the President's own words, "half as expensive as the red pill." The problem? The proverbial "red pill" here -- the drug Tarceva, would be used to extend Barbara's life. The "blue pill" -- State sanctioned barbiturates -- was designed to quite deliberately kill her.

So in other words, while Obama ridicules the notion that his critics are talking about "pulling the plug on Grandma" -- in the world of hard cold fact that was quite literally what that unsigned letter from the State of Oregon to Grandma Barbara Wagner was all about. Offering to pick up the tab for pulling the plug on this Oregon Grandma because, in the words of Dr. Walter Shaffer, medical director of the state Division of Medical Assistance Programs, "We can't cover everything for everyone. We try to come up with polices that provide the most good for the most people."

Translation in ObamaCare language? You're out, Grandma Barbara. No red pill that might stand a chance of making you better. But don't worry. We'll pay for the blue pill that will take you out. We will be right there at your side to see you off. Oh, and thanks for cleaning all those tables, driving the bus, changing all those old people diapers. Did we mention the grandkids said to say goodbye?

Now.

The pharmaceutical company that manufactures Tarceva heard about her plight and stepped up the plate, giving her the drug. Sadly, it was not enough to prevent her death. But Barbara Wagner's legacy is considerable.

She has become the real-life and deeply disturbing face of ObamaCare. The woman who wanted so desperately to live but was told in cold, chillingly banal bureaucratese by The State: tough cookies.

Again, let's listen to what is being said here.

"We need evidence to say it is a good use of taxpayer's dollars." -- Dr. Jeanene Smith, administrator for the Office of Oregon's Health Policy and Research staff, on why Oregon rejected Wagner's plea for the drug.

Medical care should not be given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens…. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia." -- Obama health care advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel writing in the Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. 1996.

In other words, Oregon, using the language of government rationing, was attempting to practice with Barbara Wagner what is called "passive euthanasia."

For those who are unfamiliar with or startled by the term, here is a succinct definition as provided by a 1997 New York Times story focusing on the time in a life when "doctors, family members or they [patients] themselves" decide it is no longer possible or reasonable to sustain life.

''It's called passive euthanasia,'' said Dr. Norman Fost, director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. ''You can ask who's involved and is it really consensual, but there is no question that these are planned deaths. We know who is dying. Patients aren't just found dead in their beds.''

Catch that phrase? "Planned Deaths."

A deliberate decision is made to withhold treatment -- because of costs -- and let someone die.

Doubtless Dr. Fost is correct that this kind of thing happens frequently. The difference between what Dr. Fost was discussing in 1997 and what is being discussed with ObamaCare is the insertion of The State into this decision -- which is exactly what the state of Oregon tried to do with Barbara Wagner.

With utter predictability, the New York Times of August 14, 2009, has tried to rescue ObamaCare by publishing a front-page attack headlined this way: "False 'Death Panel' Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots."

Quite aside from the usual attacks that have nothing to do with health care -- citing people "falsely calling him [Obama] a Muslim and questioning his nationality" -- the article fails completely to address the central charge of ObamaCare critics that it would inevitably lead Americans to a horror-scape of government rationed care -- precisely as was practiced in Oregon with Barbara Wagner. Specifically, the Times says this: "There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure."

Yet there is no mistake here with ObamaCare and its prime advocate, Mr. Obama himself. The core objective is to establish a system that, inescapably, will lead to government rationing. The Wall Street Journal asks the question this way:

From the point of view of politicians with a limited budget, is it worth spending a lot on, say, a patient with late-stage cancer where the odds of remission are long? Or should they spend to improve quality, not length, of life? Or pay for a hip or knee replacement for seniors, when palliative care might cost less? And who decides?

In Britain, the answer is the government decides. In Oregon, that is precisely what was happening with the official letter from The State to Grandma Barbara.

The frightening core of ObamaCare that is increasingly understood is this:

The next Barbara Wagner could be you.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.