There’s a question mark on that headline because, honestly, the language in the health care bill now being considered by the Senate is so convoluted that I’m not certain what it’s saying. But after looking over the 14-page table of contents this morning (church is canceled for snow), I’ve found a provision that I’ve not seen anyone anywhere talk about. It may be because I’m misreading it, or reading too much into it. If so, I’d love to have someone with legal skills tell me. Otherwise, this is something of which folks might want to take notice.

Section 1553, Subsection (a) of the bill (right after Section 1552, “Transparency in Government,” LOL) says this:

PROHIBITION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION ON ASSISTED SUICIDE.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Federal Government, and any State or local government or health care provider that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act) or any health plan created under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act), may not subject an individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the entity does not provide any health care item or service furnished for the purpose of causing, or for the purpose of assisting in causing, the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.

The way I read this paragraph is that the feds may not discriminate against (i.e., refuse to fund) any insurance plan, doctor, or hospital that refuses to engage in assisted suicide and euthanasia. The obvious corollary to such a provision, it seems to me, must be that the feds will fund any insurance plan, doctor, or hospital that carry out assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Subsection (c) of the bill then says this:

(c) CONSTRUCTION AND TREATMENT OF CERTAIN SERVICES.—Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to apply to, or to affect, any limitation relating to—
(1) the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment or medical care;
(2) the withholding or withdrawing of nutrition or hydration;
(3) abortion; or
(4) the use of an item, good, benefit, or service furnished for the purpose of alleviating pain or discomfort, even if such use may increase the risk of death, so long as such item, good, benefit, or service is not also furnished for the purpose of causing, or the purpose of assisting in causing, death, for any reason.

Again, I don’t know if I’m reading this correctly, but this seems to be saying that the bill doesn’t place any limitations on any of these practices. Presumably, limitations could be placed on them by the states (and in most, there are at least some limitations on all of them), but the federal government won’t. So if a state decides that starving someone to death (see Florida: Terri Schiavo) is an appropriate medical treatment, the federal government will have no qualms in paying for it. But it won’t discriminate against you if you refuse to take part in such “treatment.”

So far, abortion is the issue that has gotten all the press. But this strikes me as potentially just as significant, yet I’ve found nothing in the mainstream press or conservative media about it. (I’ve only come across two articles of any kind that mention it, one by Mark Henry at Catholic Online, who reads it as a conscience clause, and one by Dr. Joseph Kincaid of Michigan at Mlive.com, who like me contends that “Reading between the lines, this means that the Senate bill has no prohibition on promoting assisted suicide or having it paid for under the plan.”) So what’s the deal? Are you and I going to have to start paying for Jack Kevorkian’s pals to do their dirty work?