johnny_isakson.JPGLast week former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted a statement to her Facebook page in which she warned that President Obama's health care reform plan would result in a so-called "death panel" with the power to kill elderly people and those with disabilities:

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.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) also recently accused the Democrats' health care reform plan of putting seniors "to death."

But there is nothing resembling the alleged "death panel" in the health care reform plan. A spokesperson for Palin told ABC News that the former governor was referring to a section promoting advance care planning that appears on page 425 of the House Democrats' bill [pdf]. Advance care planning includes living wills and durable powers of attorney that allow individuals to make clear their wishes for end-of-life care, whatever they may be.

And as it turns out, the cause of advance planning has been championed especially strongly by a pro-life Republican -- U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Isakson (photo above) is a member of Senate Health committee that played a key role in shaping the health care reform legislation. He successfully offered an amendment in committee that allows funds for a government-funded program that provides in-home services to people with disabilities to be used for advance care planning, according to the national Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Isakson has been promoting advance care planning for years. In 2007, for example, he co-sponsored two bills to encourage such planning -- the Medicare End-of-Life Care Planning Act and the Advance Planning and Compassionate Care Act.

In 2005, Isakson joined with state lawmakers to publicly sign a personal "Directive for Final Health Care" to encourage Georgians to discuss their personal wishes for end-of-life care. He cited the controversial case of Terry Schiavo -- a Florida woman who lived for several years in a persistent vegetative state before her husband had her disconnected from a feeding tube -- to illustrate the importance of advance planning.

"I believe it is every person's right and responsibility to make sure their loved ones are prepared to make decisions on their behalf by discussing and documenting their wishes," Isakson said at the time. "It is my sincere hope that all Georgians will join me in following the lead of the Georgia General Assembly's Resolution and make their final wishes known."

Isakson is a pro-life politician who opposes abortion as well as stem cell research entailing the destruction of human embryos.

So far Isakson has remained silent publicly on the "death panel" brouhaha. Facing South called his press office for comment today but no one was available.

Meanwhile, another prominent Georgia Republican has rushed to Palin's defense: Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC's "This Week" that people are being asked "to trust turning power over to the government when there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards."

But at least one other Georgia politician has tried to distance himself from Palin, with Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) telling Bill Maher that her "death panel" allegation was "a scare tactic."