As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Teach The Controversy

Ceci Connolly, well-known around these parts, has a "teach the controversy" article out today about the utter B.S. flung about on talk radio and promoted by serial liar Betsy McCaughey that the Democratic health care plan surreptitiously seeks to send roving verbal hit squads out to the sticks to talk the elderly into suicide. Connolly, in her role as a stenographer, dutifully transcribes the claims from all sides of the "debate". In the second paragraph she gets close to actually explaining the language in the bill:

The controversy stems from a proposal to pay physicians who counsel elderly or terminally ill patients about what medical interventions they would prefer near the end of life and how to prepare instructions such as living wills. Under the plan, Medicare would reimburse doctors for one session every five years to confer with a patient about his or her wishes and how to ensure those preferences are followed. The counseling sessions would be voluntary.

That's not even totally correct, I wouldn't call Medicare covering end of life counseling a proposal to "pay physicians." Unless you want to call Medicare covering hip surgery as a proposal to pay physicians to take out people's hips.

You can read the provision right here. And the story could have ended there. But Connolly and her editors find it more exciting to give lots of space to those distorting the bill, without really coming down on one side or the other. The heading over Connolly's articles on this subject say "Tracking the Health Care Debate." I guess it's someone else's job to track the truth.

You know what would have been an interesting wrinkle in the article? Besides actually saying who's right and who's wrong, I mean. The tidbit that Sen. Susan Collins actually introduced this language back in the spring.

On May 22nd, Senators Collins and Jay Rockefeller introduced the “Advance Planning and Compassionate Care Act,” according to a press release sent over by a source. The measure provides Medicare funding “for advance care planning so that patients can routinely talk to their physicians about their wishes for end-of-life care,” the release says.

Collins praised the measure, which may be included in the Senate health care bill, in the release. “Our legislation will improve the way our health care system care for patients at the end of their lives,” she said, “and it will also facilitate appropriate discussions and individual autonomy in making decisions about end-of-life care.”

Maybe someone should ask Senator Collins whether she’s concerned that Federal funding for end of life consultations could result in “government-encouraged euthanasia,” as we keep hearing. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll ask her.

What a reporter like this would say is that they have a fact-check department, and they write articles about their fact-checking, and the point of this article is to highlight the "debate". I don't really understand how that illuminates much of anything. An article with the opening line "A campaign on late-night radio promoting theories that the Earth is flat and sailors fall off the side of the world just past the horizon have sparked fear among seafaring families" wouldn't be particularly helpful to anyone. I do think Democrats have shown a basic unwillingness to decide whether to ignore B.S. like this and let it fester or attack it and give it more attention, but a journalist writing about it should probably make pretty clear that only one side is telling the truth. There is actually no convention of balance in journalism, that's a recently invented altar upon which the modern press corps bends and prays.

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