Lie of the Year: 'Death Panels'

Palin's claim spread like wildfire through health debate

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 22, 2009 5:21 AM CST

(Newser) – Sarah Palin's claim that health care reform would institute "death panels" to decide whether the elderly and disabled are worthy of treatment has been deemed the biggest lie of 2009 by the editors of PolitiFact. Palin appears to have coined the term in a July Facebook posting, and it swiftly spread among reform opponents, despite policy experts on both the left and right calling it completely inaccurate.

The "death panels" claim, based on a proposal to offer voluntary end-of-life counseling on Medicare, played on people's emotions and further polarized the debate, analysts say. Polls taken after Palin's comments found that 30% of voters—mostly Republicans—believed the reform package included death panels. Palin later said the term wasn't meant to be taken literally, but that it was an effective way of getting her point across.

Sarah Palin talks with a supporter as she autographs copies of Going Rogue during a book signing in Arizona.
Sarah Palin talks with a supporter as she autographs copies of "Going Rogue" during a book signing in Arizona.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
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It touched a nerve of anxiety, and then there was a big response from the press and from experts that assured people that euthanasia wasn't anywhere near this debate.
- Harvard University researcher
Robert Blendon

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