Healthcare bill's end-of-life provisions euthanized?

The Senate Finance Committee isn't considering a controversial part of the reform bill

Published August 13, 2009 9:45PM (EDT)

One of the House Democrats' more controversial healthcare reform proposals may be -- apologies in advance for the pun -- dead on arrival.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement Thursday that the Senate Finance Committee has "dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly." (He's the top Republican on the committee.)

The provisions Grassley referred to would allow Medicare to pay for people to have completely voluntary consultations with their doctors about end-of-life issues like living wills. But they've been twisted by some people into a myth that's become fairly popular: Opponents say the provision would actually make such consultation mandatory, and would lead to euthanasia. That's a perception Grassley has actually encouraged.

There's no guarantee that the Finance Committee's move means the end-of-life provisions won't be in any final bill. But the committee has had an outsized influence on the whole process thus far, and might ultimately be instrumental in striking a deal that gets any legislation past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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