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An old piece of Affordable Care Act mythology has come back from the dead: death panels.
A reader sent us a link to a September American News article that claims an 86-year-old woman was ordered executed after a panel established by the Affordable Care Act determined that "she is no longer useful."
"According to recent reports, a group of death panels organized under Obamacare ordered their first execution.
"Following a hearing by the president’s Patient Resource Efficiency Board (PREB), 86-year-old Dorothy Zborknak has been ordered to death. The reason? According to the administration, she is no longer useful.
"Zborknak worked at Fleur de Lis Florist in Chicago for nearly forty years, before she made the decision to retire in 1998. Since that time, she has struggled with a host of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.
" ‘Unfortunately, the cost of her care just became too expensive,’ claims Peter Johnston, a member of the Chicago PREB. ‘Under the Affordable Care Act, we have the power to make choices about end of life care and I stand by our ruling. I know it will be hard for the family to accept what’s going to happen…But from a financial standpoint, this was a very easy decision.’
We’ll offer a quick diagnosis: This claim is not accurate. Back in 2009, the myth of death panels was our inaugural Lie of the Year. Almost five years later, death panels are still not a part of U.S. health care law.
Our first clue that the American News article was not real was the name of the woman who was supposedly sentenced to execution: Dorothy Zborknak. That’s the name of Bea Arthur’s character on the TV show The Golden Girls. (Slightly misspelled -- it's actually Zbornak.)
It turns out that the story is ripped from an article posted on The Daily Currant in January. The Daily Currant is a satirical website with a mission "to ridicule the timid ignorance which obstructs our progress and promote intelligence," according to the website. Other headlines include things like "Obama Announces Two-Year Golfing Trip" and "Al-Qaeda Member Elected to California City Council." The debunkers at Snopes.com caught this case of copying back in September.
The article was posted on The Patriot Facebook page in September and quickly spread. It has 6,019 likes and was shared 4,906 times.
For those who don’t recall it, the death panel discussion stemmed from a post on former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Facebook page on August 7, 2009.
"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," she wrote.
There is no mention of such a system in the massive Affordable Care Act. Instead, the idea originated from changes to Medicare to cover appointments on end-of-life planning, such as living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders. The appointments were not required, and AARP backed the addition. The change wasn’t implemented after the controversy over Palin’s comments.
The chain email claimed that Dorothy Zborknak was ordered executed by an Obamacare death panel. We ruled on this topic five years ago, but we’ll repeat it again: Death squads are not a part of the Affordable Care Act, and you can still catch Dorothy on Golden Girls reruns most nights. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
American News, BREAKING: Obamacare Death Panels Have Arrived, First Patient Executed Today, Sept. 2, 2014
Politico, Will proposal promote euthanasia? July 28, 2009
Sarah Palin, Statement on the Current Health Care Debate, August 7, 2009
The Patriot, Obamacare Death Panels Have Arrived With First Patient Execution, Sept. 2, 2014
Snopes.com, Surrender Dorothy, Sept. 22, 2014
IMDB, Dorothy Zbornak, (accessed Nov. 10, 2014)
PolitiFact, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'Death panels', Dec. 18, 2009
Kaiser Health News, Medicare Sets 2015 Provider Rates, Weighs Payment For End-Of-Life Counseling, Nov.3. 2014
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