The Board of Directors of the American Society for Bioethics has issued a statement responding to accusations about “death panels” that have become a theme of attacks on healthcare reform efforts. The final paragraph of that statement reads as follows:
“The Board of Directors of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities deplore the attempts by opponents of health care reform to scare the public by parodying bioethicists’ efforts to promote respect for patients’ wishes concerning compassionate care at the end of life. Ripping language from its context in a living will or policy proposal can easily make any document or mechanism sound inhumane and cruel, but it is a form of dishonesty that merits only contempt.”
In fact, “dishonesty that merits only contempt” has characterized this entire debate. Insults have replaced arguments; ad hominem attacks and threats have replaced reason and evidence. “Facts” have been manufactured out of whole cloth. It is very depressing for those of us who teach public policy. It makes me wonder whether democratic self-government is really possible.