There has been a murmur (albeit an insane one) at many of the anti-Obama and anti-health care reform rallies about the Nazi “T4″ program, something most Americans have never heard of. The absurd analogy apparently goes like this: the Nazis euthanized undesirables, and the proposed health bill would effectively do the same thing, therefore Obama is Hitler.
Let’s back up a bit. Aktion T4 was Hitler’s personal pet program of tasking the medical community to identify and murder those considered “incurable”. In practice, this meant the murder of the mentally ill and cognitively disabled—the total murdered was probably about 100,000 German and Polish children and adults with various mental and physical disabilities—-or at least said to have these disabilities. This was not a “euthanasia” program, but a carefully organized mass murder based on Hitler’s ideas of “fitness” and “hygiene”.
Even Hitler’s remarkable propaganda apparatus had difficulty coping with this program. While the rich were insulated (their disabled relatives normally being cared for in the home), the program affected a wide swath of everyday Germans, including many Catholics. The Church still had significant influence and was able to help rouse public opinion against the program (but famously failed to use this same power to help stop the Holocaust). The program was dismantled in 1941 and much of the apparatus re-tasked to the murder of Jews.
Rationing of limited health care resources is currently part of our health care system, although it isn’t overtly referred to as rationing. Rationing can be severe, as about 47 million uninsured Americans know, or subtle, as many others know when various tests and services are denied. Sometimes this rationing is a proper scrutiny of unnecessary care, and sometimes it is simply a cruel economic roadblock. What it is not is a program of mass murder. If rationing becomes more explicit, that is scarce resources recognized as such and in some circumstances limited, it is also not mass murder. The experience in countries with mostly socialized medicine, such as Canada, and those with hybrid systems, such as France, are not that of mass murder and death panels, and there is no reason to think that there would be such a thing here.
There is a fundamental non-equivalence between waiting a month for the MRI of your knee and being shot in a ditch for being autistic. Those who don’t recognize this—in fact anyone who equates the Obama administration’s policies to the Nazis—is probably beyond salvation. The level of hateful stupidity is nauseating, idiotic, and familiar.