As the United States debates how to overhaul its health-care system, arguments have become increasingly outlandish — perhaps none more so than former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s assertion that the Obama administration plans to implement state-sponsored “death panels” to determine whether the elderly and infirm deserve life-saving medical treatment. Writing in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Palin doubled down on her claims, saying that though “establishment voices” dismissed them, they nonetheless “rang true for many Americans.”
Of course, the U.S. government has no plans to “pull the plug on grandma”; the claims were false and the provision that sparked the rumors – a measure providing for free advice on how individuals can create living wills to inform their doctors and families what kind of end-of-life care they want — was removed from prospective legislation, just in case. But Foreign Policy took a close look around the world, in places where something akin to death panels is alive and well. […]
In 1999, as governor of Texas, former U.S. President George W. Bush signed legislation giving medical professionals an unprecedented level of autonomous power and creating perhaps the country’s only example of a “death panel” in action. […]
So, what about literal death panels? Fifty-eight countries still use the death penalty today, and they have a broad range of trial, appeals, and execution processes. The United States and Japan are the only OECD countries that still execute criminals for the crimes of murder and treason. (Other countries have not outlawed it outright, but no longer apply it.) Both have extensive review and appeals processes, and take years between conviction and execution. And, in both, the country’s Supreme Court is essentially the highest-ranking “death panel,” the last recourse for those looking to overturn their verdicts or commute their sentences.