Obama as God's Partner

This is what President Obama said to 1,000 Jewish rabbis in a conference call on 19 August: "We are God's partners in matters of life and death." One wonders if the president has a death-wish with regard to “his” health-care bill now being tortured through everything from sidewalk conversations to so-called Town-Hall meetings to the Talking-Head shows, not that anyone, especially including the lawmakers, can make any sense of it, probably because its instigators mean for it to be vague enough to mean anything they say it does. Once it’s passed, all bets are off on what anyone says it’s about now.

Amazingly, the president said this just as the news that he has re-instituted in the Veterans Administration the use of the 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." This has been the “new” obsession of the media. This document was put into place in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes, according to Jim Towey, who was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (2002-2006). After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, according to Towey, the VA suspended its use.

The primary author of this document was 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. President Bush would have none of it; President Obama has brought it back on line.

One of the circumstances listed in the manual: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." One of the questions: "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" Another scenario: "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being, I am a severe financial burden on my family… ." Is all of this stuff designed to help the vet cope with his problems, or is it to encourage him to think it might be better to just end it all?

These examples furnish a look at what could be expected in the end-of-life conferences outlined in the health-care bill as voluntary every five years or less, if needed, for the elders, payment for which under the bill would be borne by the government. Accepting the government as a consultant in possibly discontinuing treatments that would lead to death inculcates a conflict of interest, since the government, in the event of a chosen death, would be free of paying for further treatment or medicine.

This is not to say that people shouldn’t have something to say about how they leave this world; it is to say that they can probably make that decision on their own without any government help. These decisions are made every day by the sick or their families. Sitting down with a government consultant who might have a vested interest in the decision is not good, even though, admittedly, the final days of an old person’s life often DO cost Medicare a lot of money. So does Social Security as people in this country are living much longer than when this program was introduced in the 1930s.

Just the conflicts of interest alone are enough to make one wonder about the government’s getting into the end-of-life matters that are so personal for individuals and their families. However, the arrogance of the president in making such a statement is unconscionable. If he had said the partnership with God had to do just with life, he might have made a point regarding health-care since geniuses in the field of medicine have developed medicines and procedures that are indeed life-saving. When he added the element of death to the equation he bungled the whole thing, no matter what he meant, assuming he actually knew what he meant. In doing that, he placed the president’s imprimatur – actually that of the government – on accounting for the life-ending process, just the opposite of life-saving.

What Obama may not understand, also, is the fact that many individuals, account their religious convictions, believe that God has already ordained when – and obviously how (the real sticker) – they will die. This doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people, but probably most evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, and even the majority of the members of the so-called “mainline” denominations hold this belief. This means that Obama’s pronouncement of HIS partnership with God in anything at all is offensive to millions of people of faith, most of whom believe that the separation of church and state is non-negotiable. To these folks, attempting to help God out in the matter of dying is arrogance carried to the nth degree, especially considering his lengthy background with the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, who called on God not to partner with anyone but to damn America.