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Sen. Isakson: Death panel claims are "nuts"

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Yesterday we reported on how a provision in the health care reform bill promoting advance care planning was being misconstrued by some politicians -- including former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin -- as creating a "death panel" pushing euthanasia of elderly and disabled people.

We pointed out that one of the strongest congressional advocates of advance care planning, which includes things like living wills, is actually Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia (in photo), a conservative Republican who opposes abortion as well as stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos -- hardly the kind of fellow who can be accused of promoting a "death panel."

We called Isakson's office yesterday before running the piece, but no one was available to talk at the time. However, the Senator did give an interview late yesterday afternoon to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, who among other things asked Isakson how the issue of advance care planning became a question of euthanasia:

I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.

There is growing division in the GOP over some of the extreme rhetoric against health care reform that's coming from others in their party. Another Georgia Republican, Congressman Jack Kingston, recently called the "death panel" allegations a "scare tactic."

But other Republicans have proven reluctant to challenge the wildly inaccurate assertions. For example, reporters asked about Palin's remark during a conference call yesterday with state leaders attending the Republican Governors Association retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, the Associated Press reports.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue simply said Palin could "speak for herself," while Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour -- who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012 -- refused to comment on her remarks.

(Photo of Sen. Johnny Isakson from Senate website)

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