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Why Sarah Palin’s ‘death panels’ deserved ‘Lie of the Year’

Dr Patrick Neustatter, formerly a GP in the UK and now a family doctor in Fredericksburg, Virginia explains how the infamous term 'death panels' has stifled debate on rational distribution of healthcare resources in the US.

Fact checking website has awarded Sarah Palin the dubious honour of telling the 'Lie of the Year'.

Former cheerleader, vice presidential candidate, governor of Alaska, and now bestselling author with her new book 'Going Rogue', Ms Palin is viewed as either a saviour or a dangerous moron.

Of her extremist views, none has been more broadcast than her characterization as 'death panels' the proposal to pay doctors to counsel patients on end of life issues.

In their recent ceremony for Lie of the Year, as well as other, lesser, 'pants on fire' awards, described Palin's take as the Government setting up boards that would 'determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care'.

The rancorous debate over health care reform here in the US has been characterized by hyperbole – though I would agree with that 'death panels' takes the biscuit.

The sad thing is it distracts from a very real issue: medical advances are making care prohibitively expensive, above all for the elderly for whom there is a tendency to 'do everything' for often minimal benefit.

Getting the best bang for your buck is a guiding principal of any business here in the US. But open discussion of rational distribution of resources when it comes to people's lives seems just too emotive – and too good a piece of fodder for fundamentalist conservatives such as Palin to resist using in any attempt to derail Obama's healthcare reforms.

Sarah Palin - original photo by Bruce Tuten, Flickr Sarah Palin - original photo by Bruce Tuten, Flickr