Santorum pushes discredited stroke claim

Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Hannibal, Mo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
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Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Hannibal, Mo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Friday backed prominent conservative James Dobson's claim that President Barack Obama's administration would block medical treatment for stroke patients over age 70. Professional medical groups have called such statements bogus.

During a forum inside a church, Dobson cited an anonymous caller to a conservative radio show who said "for patients over 70 years of age, that advanced neurosurgical care was not generally indicated." The caller claimed that patients would be offered "comfort care" unless a panel of bureaucrats approved more significant treatment.

"That's called 'death panels.' Sarah Palin was right. That means death to that person," said Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family.

Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2008, coined the term "death panel" in response to the administration's health care law, although her argument was roundly criticized as inaccurate.

Santorum seemed to go along with Dobson, arguing that government-run health care would result in limits on care. He brought Obama's health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, into the argument.

"When you become a cost, then the government starts to allocate resources," Santorum said. "Well, who should we be allocating these resources to? We shouldn't be allocating it to 70-year-old of people who have strokes, according to Kathleen Sebelius."

The regulation does not exist, medical professionals said.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons said in a joint statement they were "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."

The groups also said the suggestions run counter to their responsibility as health care professionals.

"Neurosurgeons are committed to providing timely, compassionate, and state of the art treatment for all patients — regardless of age — who have neurosurgical conditions," the groups said, asking radio host Mark Levin to remove the November radio clip from his website.

The Health and Human Services Department also rejected the allegation.

"These claims are absolutely false and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons have both gone on the record to denounce these false rumors as well," spokeswoman Erin Shields said in a statement.

Dobson, who has endorsed Santorum's candidacy and has joined him at campaign-style appearances, seemed unaware of the disputed statement.

"Secretary Sebelius in the Obama administration, within the Obamacare plan, decreed a few weeks ago that as of January first of next year, if you are over 60 years of age — I beg your pardon — if you're over 70 years of age and you have a cranial bleed — blood is running into your brain, which is a horrible condition, it destroys the brain tissue, if you survive it, you will never the same again — they decreed that you will not be granted treatment," Dobson said.

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