The term "Useless Eater" is a translation from the German "Nutlos Esser" as used by the national socialist worker's party to describe people who should be killed because their race, age, disabilities, or record prevent them from contributing to society.
An analysis by Mark P. Mostert: "Useless Eaters: Disability as Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany, tells the story of Germany's slide from the discussion of ethical issues in the 1920s to mass murder in the 1930s. An excerpt:
In 1920 the concept of living beings not worthy of the life they embodied gained impetus with a tract published by two university professors, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche. Permission for the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life articulated key implications for people with disabilities. Binding and Roche called for the killing of people with disabilities, whom they viewed as "incurable idiots" having no will or sense of living. Killing them, therefore, was hardly involuntary euthanasia, that is, the imposition of others' will upon them. This shifted the burden of human existence from simply being alive to requiring an explicit justification for living. For Binding and Roche, therefore, the right to live was to he earned, not assumed. One earned the right to live by being a useful economic contributor to society. Chief among the individuals they saw as being useless were those who seemed to have little or no human feeling, or in their terms, "empty human husks" whose only societal function was the consuming of precious resources while contributing nothing to society in return. In Binding and Hoche's terms, they were "useless eaters" whose "ballast lives" could be tossed overboard to better balance the economic ship of state. In speaking of those with disabilities, and explicitly advocating involuntary euthanasia, Binding and Hoche wrote,
Their life is absolutely pointless, but they do not regard it as being unbearable. They are a terrible, heavy burden upon their relatives and society as a whole. Their death would not create even the smallest gap - except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses. (Burleigh, 1994, p. 17)
Furthermore, Binding and Hoche drove home the economic argument by calculating the total cost expended in caring for such people. They concluded that this cost was "a massive capital in the form of foodstuffs, clothing and heating, which is being subtracted from the national product for entirely unproductive purposes" (Burleigh, 1994, p. 19).
Binding and Hoche's polemic was furiously debated across Germany. One strident critic of the Binding and Hoche position was Ewald Meltzer, the director of an asylum in Saxony, who held that many of his charges did indeed have the ability to enjoy life inasmuch as their disabilities would allow. In an attempt to support his belief, Meltzer surveyed the parents of his patients to ascertain their perceptions of disability and euthanasia. To Meltzer's astonishment, the survey results showed a widely held contradiction among the parents that although they had strong emotional ties to their children, they simultaneously expressed, with varying degrees of qualification, a "positive" attitude toward killing them. In fact, only a handful of respondents completely rejected all notions of euthanasia ( Proctor, 1988). The results of this survey were a harbinger of future public and official perceptions and actions toward people with disabilities. Meltzer's survey was later used as a major rationale for the killing of thousands of people with disabilities under the National Socialists, whose long-held social perceptions of difference coupled with official state prejudice delineated a series of genocidal markers that doomed significant numbers of people with disabilities during the Nazi era.
The parallels to today's "death panel", abortion, and euthanasia debates are startling.. Here's part of an August, 2014, report by Tony Lee, writing for Breitbart.com under the title Feds May Reimburse Medicare 'End-of-Life Discussions' After Mocking Palin's 'Death Panels'
On August 7, 2009, Palin injected "death panels" into the Obamacare debate:
And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
"Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is, many of these accusers finally saw that Obamacare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about health care funding," Palin later reiterated. "It's called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and its purpose all along has been to 'keep costs down' by actually denying care via price controls and typically inefficient bureaucracy. This subjective rationing of care is what I was writing about in that first post."
Politifact, though, crowned her statement as its 2009 "Lie of the Year": "We agree with Palin that such a system would be evil. But it's definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed."
A lot has changed since then.
Prominent liberals like Paul Krugman, Howard Dean, and former Obama adviser Steve Rattner have since conceded that "death panels" had to be added to Obamacare.
Rattner even lamented that Palin's "rant about death panels even forced elimination from the bill of a provision to offer end-of-life consultations" and Obamacare "regrettably includes severe restrictions on any reduction in Medicare services or increase in fees to beneficiaries."
"We need death panels," Rattner simply wrote. "Well, maybe not death panels, exactly, but unless we start allocating health care resources more prudently - rationing, by its proper name - the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget."
Rattner continued by noting that "Medicare needs to take a cue from Willie Sutton, who reportedly said he robbed banks because that's where the money was."
"The big money in Medicare is not to be found in Mr. Ryan's competition or Mr. Obama's innovation, but in reducing the cost of treating people in the last year of life, which consumes more than a quarter of the program's budget," Rattner emphasized.
In 1922 Hitler spoke about the resources wasted on the unproductive and no one took him seriously - but, by 1939, national socialist belief permeated Germany and the killing of useless eaters was in full swing - more from the Mostert report:
The Knauer child's death demonstrated that social and official precursors to widespread, organized homicide of people with disabilities were firmly in place. In May 1939, Hitler ordered the creation of an advisory committee that would pave the way for the widespread killing of children with disabilities. Ironically, 1939 was the year designated by the Nazis as the year of "the duty to be healthy" (Proctor, 1988, p. 177). The children's killing program was to report directly to Hitler's Chancellery through a front organization under the pseudo scientific moniker of the Committee for the Scientific Treatment of Severe, Genetically Determined Illnesses. However, this impressive title belied its function, as it was headed by Hans Hefelmann, an agricultural economist (Litton, 1986). On August 18, 1939, prior to the German invasion of Poland, which began World War II, this committee produced a secret report, disseminated to all state governments, requiring all midwives and physicians who delivered infants with obvious congenital disabilities to register these children and the nature of the disability, ostensibly
to clarify certain scientific questions in areas of congenital deformity and mental retardation [such as] idiocy or Mongolism (especially if associated with blindness or deafness): microcephaly or hydrocephaly of a severe or progressive nature; deformities of any kind, especially missing limbs, malformation of the head, or spina bifida; or crippling deformities such as spastics. (Proctor, 1988, p. 186)
The directive applied to children up to the age of 3. Across Germany, these new requirements were officially added to other information routinely required by the state at the birth of any child, such as evidence of venereal or other contagious diseases. As added incentives, midwives were paid for every infant with disabilities so referred. Failure to report these cases resulted in substantial fines. This directive would also later require teachers to report these disabilities among their students in schools.
Information on the registered children was returned to the Reich Health Ministry in Berlin, where a panel of three professionals - physicians, psychiatrists, or a disparate array of related professionals (such as ophthalmologists) - sorted the children's records into three groups. Children included in the first group, their records marked with a minus sign, were permitted to survive. Inclusion in the second group, designated by the phrase "temporary assignment" or "observation," meant that a decision on the child's fate was to be postponed until a later date. Children in the third group, designated by a plus sign on their records, were identified for "treatment" (Lifton, 1986), "disinfection," "cleaning," "therapy" (Glass, 1997), or "selection" (Proctor, 1988), all Nazi euphemisms for extermination. Unanimous votes were required for each child. This process was facilitated by each panelist's being aware of what previous panelists had decided. Decisions were made exclusively on the basis of the information on the registration form, thereby transforming life-and-death decisions by the state into a macabre administrative exercise.
The fate of the "plus" children was swiftly realized. In most instances, parents, weary with the significant care issues their child with disabilities generated, or perhaps being aware of the current national stigma assigned to disability, were often eager to acquiesce to official urgings that their child be remanded to a state-run facility for "expert care." Parents who appeared reluctant to do so, especially single mothers, were coerced to do so by the state's welfare agencies (Friedlander, 1995).
Those designated for extermination were transferred to one of 28 facilities, among them several of Germany's oldest and most respected hospitals, where they were housed in specially designated killing wards. The Nazi authorities took great care to inform parents that their children would be safe in special wards at the clinics, which would "provide all available therapeutic interventions made possible by recent scientific discoveries" (Friedlander, 1995, p. 47). These assurances were always given with the caveat that such endeavors were also fraught with mortal risks.
The bottom line on all of this is simple: as discussed in its historical context in a recent essay by Matt Ridley, the need to rid society of useless eaters is a fundamental consequence of the Malthusian delusion - and millions of murders by national socialist or communist regimes around the world have done nothing to blunt the left's eagerness to get on with the killing. The Breitbart report quoted above was one of many written after the latest attempt to have the taxpayer fund death panels in America - but the proponents were generally ahead of their opponents in unleashing a seemingly co-ordinated barrage of supportive editorial comment and pseudo research during June and July of 2014. Consider, for example, this bit from a story by Harold Pollack for Politico:
Let's Talk About 'Death Panels'
It's time to revisit a good idea that was distorted by demagoguery.
There's nothing particularly costly here. A health-care system that promiscuously reimburses proton beam cancer therapies can finance a 45-minute conversation about your advanced-care directives. Some private insurers and state Medicaid programs already reimburse such consultations. So it's no surprise that the Illinois medical society, geriatricians, policymakers and advocacy groups are quietly pushing both private insurers and Medicare to reconsider the idea, this time through regulatory and administrative actions rather than new legislation. The American Medical Association -which plays an outsized role in determining how doctors are compensated- will also submit information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concerning the mechanics of reimbursing such services.
There's nothing inherently ideological about these services, either. Donald Taylor of Duke University, one of the nation's leading palliative care policy experts, notes that "Prior to the Affordable Care Act, hospice policy and discussions around advanced directives and the like tended to have broad bipartisan support." Indeed, it was a Republican senator, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who co-sponsored 2007's Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act to expand coverage for voluntary care counseling in cases of serious illness. A very similar provision was included in the House version of what became the Affordable Care Act. Section 1223 would have paid physicians for discussing advanced-care planning with their patients.
Then came the "death panel" bomb. I still can't quite believe that occurred. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Betsey McCaughey, a pundit whose health-care writings have been widely discredited, grotesquely distorted the debate. In Palin's memorable words:The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
It's disgraceful that a national figure would peddle malicious nonsense that earned Politifact's "Lie of the Year" award. It was more than a little pathetic, too. Politicians across the political spectrum have made important contributions in the domain of intellectual disability. When Palin's life was unexpectedly touched in this way, I had hoped that she would parlay her charisma and national platform to accomplish something worthy.
She chose a different path. To my knowledge, Palin has played no sustained or substantial role in any disability policy issue. She quit her job as governor to hit the right-wing mashed potato circuit. The "death panel" episode itself sealed her transition from intriguing newcomer on the national scene to embarrassing fringe figure. She's garnered some lucrative media deals. But her reputation has suffered heavily.
Many people, including some on the right who should have known better, attributed the idea that treatment decisions would be based on the patient's "level of productivity in society" to Obama advisor (and brother to his then chief of staff Rahm Emanuel) Dr. Ezekial Emanuel. In reality, however, Emanuel's essay ( "Principles for Allocation of Scarce Medical Interventions") is largely a reworking of ideas common among European and American eugenicists in the 1920s and the phrase itself probably attributable to one of many leftists gently re-interpreting Hegel during a restatement of someone else's translations of his work into English.
And, just in case, you think the killing of children for state convenience is, at least in America, limited to pre-birth abortions, consider that Princeton University ethics professor Peter Singer publically advocates post birth abortion as a way of avoiding the cost of care for those born mentally or physically defective; or, for a less theoretical example, consider the implications of this WND report from Maine - where a fiercely partisan state bureaucracy is fighting a recently elected republican governor for the right to order hospitals to let people die:
The governor of Maine is blasting his own state agency for a case in which social workers went to court to get a "do not resuscitate" order for an infant injured in an alleged child abuse case.
The government officials obtained the court order even though the child's mother did not agree to the decision.
"This case is disturbing and is not reflective of my administration's position that a parent who is the legal guardian of their child should have final say in medical decisions about life-sustaining treatment," Gov. Ron LePage said Thursday in a statement to WND.
"The existing law violates the sanctity of parental rights, and I cannot support it. Unless a parent is deemed unfit and parental rights are severed, the state should not override a parent's right to make medical decisions for their own child," he said.
WND reported just one day ago on the case in which a mother asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to overturn a state-imposed "do not resuscitate" order for her injured daughter, who is temporarily in the custody of the state.
Four powerful organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the state's Department of Health and Human Services doesn't have the constitutional right to deprive the baby of her life.
A hearing is set for Sept. 23 in the case of the child known by the initials A.P.
The DHHS imposed a "do not resuscitate" order on the child, which is in the state's custody because of an alleged child abuse case. But the mother, whose parental rights have not been terminated, is contesting the state's decision.
The state argues that it has the authority to consent to a "do not resuscitate" order for any child in its custody if it is in the child's best interest.
Not so, contend Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, who filed a brief on behalf of the Christian Civic League of Maine, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, Concerned Women for America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
The child was injured when her father allegedly shook her, and she's been in state custody while the case plays out, records show.
The state wants the DNR order on the child on the assumption that the injuries are severe and will at some point be fatal, even though they occurred last year. The mother, the brief explains, is "in court because she wants to give the baby a fighting chance to live while the state wants to hasten her death."
"Everyone deserves a fighting chance to live. All this mother is doing is fighting for that chance for her baby," said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. "This mother's parental rights should not be ignored; no one has the authority to deny her the right to save her daughter's life."
Bottom line: from a liberal perspective the child, if it survives, will be another Useless eater - What did Mostert say? "The Knauer child's death demonstrated that social and official precursors to widespread, organized homicide of people with disabilities were firmly in place." and that's exactly the zeitgeist the Obama oriented bureaucracy tries to set up everywhere it has control.