Now the returning vets have to face threats to their lives in the hospital here at home.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for
Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning
document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and
later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast
network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took
a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral
issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama,
the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”

Who is the primary author of this workbook? 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.

This is surreal. But Towey’s analysis details how terribly real it has become.

“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices
in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much
like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists
various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life
would be “not worth living.”

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and
disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being
able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks,
“Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?”
There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer
contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden
on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional
burden for my family.”

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for
themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

Towey served as director of President George Bush’s Office of Faith
Based Initiatives, and he pointedly notes that no representatives of
faith groups or disability rights advocates were part of the VA panel
that devised this ‘unconscionable hurry-up-and-die’ scheme.

And as he says, America’s 24 million veterans deserve better.

Okay, this can be a learning moment.

If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not
trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care,
one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the
Oval Office and pull the plug on “Your Life, Your Choices.” He should
make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that
treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....