End of fighting about end of life?


I could see this one coming. In a way I hoped it would come, so that now Americans could get on with rational discussion of health care reform.

So I was not surprised to read that the proposal regarding Medicare funding for voluntary end‑of‑life discussions with one’s doctor is being dropped.

Not because it was a bad idea.  But because it was deliberately distorted to fool people (most of them on Medicare) into believing that they would have to appear before government bureaucrats every 5 years to talk about how they wanted to die.

Bizarre as this distortion is, it did what it was meant to do!  It created huge fear in older Americans—a group which already has plenty of fear about having health care when they need it. 

The absolute low point came when Sarah Palin weighed in the debate on Facebook. Cynically exploiting her parents and her baby with Down Syndrome, she made nightmarish reference to government “death panels.”  I hope that she and others responsible for spreading such unconscionable lies don’t plan too big a celebration.  And I hope we’ve learned that—even if Medicare doesn’t pay for it—you and I need to think about and plan for our own end-of-life care.

Doctors and other health care professionals, health care attorneys, social workers, and others emphasize that all adults—even healthy ones in their 20s and 30s—should have a living will. A document that spells out what sort of care you want and what you don’t want, if your health fails to the point where you can’t speak for yourself.

According to an August 9 online article in the Baltimore Sun:

Indeed, patients stricken in their 20s have been at the center of high-profile right-to-die cases where relatives feud in court about whether to stop treatment.  That includes Terri Schiavo, Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Ronald W. Mack….”

You probably have  thought about the need to have a living will, but it’s so hard to actually get around to working on it. I know that feeling. My father, who died of cancer in 1995, had a living will, but I don’t have one. I’m not even certain what to do, but I’ve started to gather some information. (A good place to look is the website of your state’s Office of the Attorney General.)

I’ll be checking this out and sharing what I learn.

Photo by lrargerich

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