2011’s Last Viral Lie About Health Reform

When so many good things have happened as the result of health care reform, I hate to end this year with a rebuttal to a viral lie about the Affordable Care Act. However, this one seems to come from a credible source but is so wrong that I can’t resist.

This is how the email reads:

“MUST LISTEN This needs to go viral. A brain surgeon called into the Mark Levin show. If you are over 70 years of age and you go to the ER and you are on government supported care, you will get comfort care instead of surgery. A government panel (a group of people that know absolutely nothing about medicine) will decide if you can have surgery and it has been decided that it will be denied if you are over 70. Patients will also be called “units” instead of “patients”. Sarah Palin was correct–DEATH PANELS!”


The video shows the radio host, Mark Levin, listening to this so-called brain surgeon call into his show. The surgeon claims that he has just been to a meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in Washington, D.C., where he learned something shocking! Obamacare will require only “comfort care” for people over 70. If you read the comments below the YouTube video, you are directed to the AANS site itself, where the Society blasts this person and his claim as a complete hoax. This disclaimer is on the AANS site under the “AANS news” subtitle:

“On November 22, 2011, an individual claiming to be a “brain surgeon” made several statements referencing neurosurgical care on a Mark Levin radio show segment. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) reviewed this segment and found that it contained several factual inaccuracies. Please read the following statement regarding this matter. Should you have additional questions, contact Alison Dye, AANS/CNS Senior Manager of Communications, at 202-446-2028.”

The statement continues:

“The AANS and CNS are unaware of any federal government document directing that advanced neurosurgery for patients over 70 years of age will not be indicated and only supportive care treatment will be provided. Furthermore, in conducting our own due diligence, it appears that the caller who identified himself as a brain surgeon may not actually be a neurosurgeon, nor was there any session at the recent Congress of Neurological Surgeons’ scientific meeting in Washington, DC at which a purported government document calling for the rationing of neurosurgical care was discussed.

Neurosurgeons are committed to providing timely, compassionate, and state of the art treatment for all patients — regardless of age — who have neurosurgical conditions. As such, we have requested that this podcast be removed from Mark Levin’s website as it portrays inaccurate information which could potentially be harmful to the patients that we serve.”

What motivates a person to misrepresent themselves while also blatantly lying about health care reform? Money? Anger? Ignorance? Hard to say. But as we say goodbye to 2011 and anticipate even more kooky and mean-spirited accusations about health care reform, I hope you will all bookmark and consult websites like politifact.org, factcheck.org, or snopes.com before you pass along any of these lies and distortions.

Linda Bergthold, PhD, is an independent health policy consultant and researcher and Senior Advisor at the Center for Medical Technology Policy. She currently serves as on various boards and committees to evaluate new technologies and review research from the consumer perspective. Follow her on Twitter: @lab08

19 replies »

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  2. I can get myself riled up sometimes, like everyone else. In the past few years I have been learning how to fact-check things (it helps me that there is a link called factcheck hehe).
    Anyway. I have friends that help me when I don’t fact check something (I think they sometimes LOVE to “help” me – ahhhh).
    There are some people that are SOOOOOO blatantly weird that I don’t even fact-check them and I find out it was satire. I think, with some strange people, there should be a disclaimer saying, “this is one thing they really didn’t do, but wouldn’t it be funny if they did”.

  3. Thank you, Brooke Dolby, for providing the link for me instead of lambasting me for daring to “ask for info to be given.” I suppose my research and computer skills aren’t up to snuff but I’m not spreading lies and am anxious to know the truth. I kind of thought that”s what forums are about. The anecdotal negative experiences I have been reading about do give concern and I wonder what motives people have to lie… and realize, of course many don’t need motive to lie, and others have agendas of their own (or group). Again, thank you for your kind and informative response. Well taken.

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  5. SamIamHis is correct. Liz totally undermined her credibility by referencing the WHO’s ranking of the U.S. as 37th. That was a study done about a decade ago and this is a discredited liberal talking point. On the WHO’s website, they explain that there are too many variables in each country’s health care systems to do an accurate ranking. They will no longer conduct studies of this type. I have not followed the U.N. agenda, but know that the buzzword “overpopulation” is beginning to show up in a variety of sources.

    Any health care law that puts the current insurance of millions of Americans in jeopardy is wrong. Various organizations, including the CBO have stated that millions will lose their current policies as this poorly developed Federal Government takeover actually gives incentives to companies to drop their employees policies. The fine for not offering coverage is far less than the cost to them. It’s how total takeover by the Federal Government will occur, as more and more lose benefits they’ve enjoyed for years.

  6. Yes Liz and I know how reliable a resource the World Health Organization is. This is the same organization that purports that the world is in danger of overpopulation, which is totally untrue and that we need to control populations via some of the most nefarious methods. Their research is not only biased but suspect on many levels. The agenda of this organization goes to the idea that the world is the only thing that can save the world. Individual countries should not be sovereign but should be controlled by the UN via the various organizations that have sprung out of that cesspool of “intelligent” thinkers, of which the WHO is one. I know they do some “good works”, but you must examine their roots to understand how they come to the level of power they exhibit, where they can report data and it is accepted as true. I do not trust the U.N. nor any organization that comes out of it. I know you will disagree with me so that is where this discussion will part.

  7. Perhaps you should educate yourself instead of expecting the government to educate you with federal funds. Those advisory boards are there to decrease spending on tests that have no merit, that do not affect the patients diagnosis or treatment, essentially a waste of medicare funds. Those tests have been determined by panels of doctors and years of research around the country. I gave you a head start, and as a fellow “in the know” medical professional, I urge you to continue looking for the truth instead of asking for it to be given to you. Thats how lies get spread.

  8. Some people are afraid of change. If they were really confronted with the truth that American is not the greatest country anymore, maybe they would desire some change. The country is divided so much more than I have ever seen before though. I have no faith in Americans getting along. We are too hateful of each other.

  9. How can you say “Jeff” is not implying comfort care after 70? The transcript clearly acknowledges that’s what he’s saying.

  10. SamIamHis. I hope you are aware that the United States is ranked #37 in healthcare. Costa Rica apparently has better healthcare. the WHO goes by proven statistics and mortality rates so don’t try to negate the facts.

  11. Just keep your heads in the sand and keep looking for free healthcare from the government. Your desires will be the undoing of the best health care in the world. That is the goal of the current administration. It has been tried in the past in various countries. It has failed. The arrogance of this administration is that they never look at history and learn from it. They believe this time it will be different because they are smarter and they can do what has historically proved to fail. What is actually revealed is their own stupidity and the stupidity of those who follow them. Those who refuse to learn from history will repeat the mistakes of history!

  12. If this is a viral lie… reaching thousands and thousands of people whose response is to be very concerned, upset, and devasted about the possibility of this happening…
    If this is a lie, then why has not the government (who is so prompt in throwing money away) not spent a bit on proving that this is not true.
    Especially, when those of us “in the know” er personnel, doctors, surgeons have already complained about not being allowed to make decisions over a patient’s health care procedures, because it isn’t approved by an advisory board (not comprised of medically trained experts).


    The man NEVER said “Obamacare will require only “comfort care” for people over 70.”

    Here is the transcript –
    I just returned from Washington, DC, where we were reading over what the Obama health care plan would be for advanced neurosurgery for patients over 70, which we all found quite disturbing. As our population gets older, the majority of our patients are getting over 70. They’ll require stroke therapy, aneurysm therapy, and basically what the document stated is that if you’re over 70 and you come into an emergency room… if you’re on government-supported health care, you’ll get “comfort care”.

    ML: Wait a minute… what’s the source for this?

    Jeff: This is Obama’s new health care plan for advanced neurosurgical care.

    ML: And who issued this? HHS?

    Jeff: Yes. And basically they don’t call them patients, they call them units. And instead of, they call it “ethics panels” or “ethics committees”, would get together and meet and decide where the money would go for hospitals, and basically for patients over 70 years of age, that advanced neurosurgical care was not generally indicated.

    ML: So it’s generally going to be denied?

    Jeff: Yes, absolutely… If someone comes in at 70 years of age with a bleed in their brain, I can promise you I’m not going to get a bunch of administrators together on an ethics panel at 2 in the morning to decide that I’m OK to do surgery.

    ML: Is this published somewhere where the general public could get a hold of it?

    Jeff: Not yet.

    ML: So this was just discussed with your community of neurosurgeons?

    Jeff: Yes, the AANS [Ed: the American Association of Neurological Surgeons] and the Congress of Neurosurgeons, because everybody knows that cuts are coming in Medicare and medical reimbursement. And we’re the most expensive out of all the fields in medicine. And we’re the smallest field. But at two, three, four in the morning, we’re the ones in the operating room. And we have to wait for an ethics panel to convene, which are not made of physicians — they’re made of administrators. To decide whether a patient should receive our care.

    ML: So Sarah Palin was right. We’re going to have these “death panels”, aren’t we?

    Jeff: Oh, absolutely. I’m German by heritage, and I’ve read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and — basically, they don’t call them patients, they call them units. And if you’re a unit above a certain age, you get comfort care instead of advanced neurosurgical intervention.

    ML: You went to a seminar in Washington, DC?

    Jeff: Yes. Where a few of my former partners, two of them, have gone to work… one for the Veteran’s Administration and one for the Congress of Neurosurgeons out of DC.

    ML: And this information is based, you’re certain, on representations and information provided by HHS and other government officials?

    Jeff: Yep.

    ML: And when will the rest of us become aware of it? After the [presidential] election?

    Jeff: Probably. I mean, there’s so many things that the government keeps under control that are used — things called H.U.D. devices — humanitarian use devices that we’re allowed to use now because they haven’t undergone full FDA approval. And they’re used in surgery because people know it’s the right thing to do. But the government can step in at any time, like they did two months ago with a device, and say, ‘this device hasn’t met what we want’ and there’s no exact criteria, and can therefore take it away from us.

    ML: And the people telling you what to do — they don’t know how to make a pencil, do they?

    Jeff: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. You know, we always joke around — ‘it’s not brain surgery’ — but I did nine years after medical school, I’ve been in training ten years, and now I have people who don’t know a thing about what I’m doing telling me when I can and can’t operate.

  14. A lot of years ago, another program aired on the radio, “War of the Worlds”, based on a story by H.G. Wells. You may have heard of people jumping out of office windows to their death after hearing of the invasion – the stress of the story was too great to bear.

    Don’t jump!!

    Unbelievable. Mind you, I’m not even sure people jumped after hearing “The War of the Worlds” – it may also have been a rumor

    Thanks for the facts.

  15. “What motivates a person to misrepresent themselves while also blatantly lying about health care reform? Money? Anger? Ignorance?”

    More likely to have been intentional tactical political positioning by a ‘plant’ representing anti-reform activism.