Hatch sidesteps claim of 'death panels'
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President Barack Obama, independent analysts and even a few Republicans have repeatedly tried to knock down the persistent yet now debunked claim that health reform would include "death panels," where the government would determine when to cut off care and let a patient die.

But Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch refused to directly weigh in on the issue during his Sunday appearance on ABC's "This Week."

"You know, there are many different people who have many different opinions on what is meant by these programs," he said.

Hatch did seem to indicate there was some legitimate concerns about end-of-life care provisions in the bill, saying that Democratic plans would result in rationing.

"Guess who they are going to have to ration. It is going to be senior citizens, and senior citizens are naturally concerned about that, so am I," he said. "I think that is where these kind of things come about."

Hatch did say he expects doctors to handle end-of-life care as professionals.

He appeared on the Sunday morning political show along with Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who called the claim of "death panels" "a myth. It is simply not true."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin first made the claim in a post on Facebook where she said: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."

What the Democratic proposals would actually do is pay for patients and their family to have a consultation with doctors about the options for end-of-life care, which could include things like hospice.

Obama has confronted the issue head-on in a series of town hall meetings in the past week, most recently making a personal pitch referring to his own grandmother, who died shortly before he was elected.

"I know what it's like to watch somebody you love, who's aging, deteriorate, and have to struggle with that," Obama said during a town hall in Colorado on Saturday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also referred to her own situation in trying to rebut the claim, saying her mom spent 10 weeks in three different hospitals before she died. Sebelius said she did undergo end-of-life counseling and wished it had happened weeks sooner.

mcanham@sltrib.com