CJR: Where did ‘death panels’ come from?

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman, writing for CJR.org, traced rumors of “death panels” in the Obama reform plan back to radio appearances and op-ed pieces by a familiar face, former politician and academic Betsy McCaughey.


Betsy McCaughey

McCaughey first gained prominence when her notorious New Republic article “No Exit” helped submarine the Clintons’ health reform proposal in the early ’90s. Lieberman explains that the widely misinterpreted provision in the health reform proposal is actually just an expansion of a process put in place by the first Bush administration in which, once every five years, Medicare will reimburse patients for visits with medical professionals to discuss what kind of end-of-life care the patient chooses. (See McCaughey’s explanation on The Daily Show and New York Times blog post about the appearance.)

In a related piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, Greg Marks reviewed academic research to explain just how difficult it is to chase mythical creations like “death panels” from the national consciousness. “Once factually inaccurate ideas take hold in people’s minds,” Marx writes, “there are no reliable strategies to dislodge them — especially from the minds of those for whom the misinformation is most ideologically convenient.”

Finally, also in CJR, Megan Garber documents the sheer absurdity of the town hall shenanigans and spices up the account with a few choice examples and ends with the conclusion that our only hope may be to try “to ensure that the facts will simply make more noise than the fictions.”

1 thought on “CJR: Where did ‘death panels’ come from?

  1. Pingback: One town’s end-of-life talks lead to living wills : Covering Health

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