The intellectual superstructure for the "death panel" nonsense — such as it is — derives partly from sections of the House bill related to living wills and partly from the academic writings of Ezekiel Emanual. Zeke is Rahm Emanuel's brother, a sometime advisor to the White House on healthcare, and a longtime medical ethicist who has written extensively on some of the most difficult kinds of healthcare decisions.
That was enough to make him a poster boy for the death panel crowd. The heavy lifting, unsurprisngly, was done by our old friend Betsy McCaughey. Michael Scherer explains:
In her Post article, McCaughey paints the worst possible image of Emanuel, quoting him, for instance, endorsing age discrimination for health-care distribution, without mentioning that he was only addressing extreme cases like organ donation, where there is an absolute scarcity of resources. She quotes him discussing the denial of care for people with dementia without revealing that Emanuel only mentioned dementia in a discussion of theoretical approaches, not an endorsement of a particular policy. She notes that he has criticized medical culture for trying to do everything for a patient, "regardless of the cost or effects on others," without making clear that he was not speaking of lifesaving care but of treatments with little demonstrated value. "No one who has read what I have done for 25 years would come to the conclusions that have been put out there," says Emanuel. "My quotes were just being taken out of context."
The whole piece is worth a read. McCaughey and her ilk obviously don't care about any of this, but it's worth understanding how it all happened.