End of Life Planning Doesn’t Kill Granny

firing-squadWhichever side of the healthcare debate you come down on, everyone can agree that premeditated lying is never cool.  I was especially saddened this week to see so many people – broadcasters, politicians and private citizens  – repeating the ridiculous claim that the current draft of the healthcare bill in Congress contains provisions that establish “death panels” to decide if  elderly folks in poor health should be treated or be euthanized to “save costs”.

Look, regardless of how you think healthcare should be improved, every American needs to have clear, factual information about the proposed legislation to use in formulating an informed opinion.  Otherwise, folks’ll be making their decisions about issues based on flawed assumptions.  Where did this “death panel” story come from?

Well, the specific piece of the legislation that spurred the death panel story was a section that deals with End of Life Planning.  End of life planning is something that Americans have been doing for decades.  It is essentially sitting down with your family doctor and a lawyer to spell out what your wishes would be if you were too sick or injured to tell them yourself.  The doctor advises you of your medical situation and your lawyer drafts a document – sometimes referred to as a “living will” – which puts it in writing.  This way, when you’re 94 and in failing health, the doctor will know that if you slip into a coma, or have a seizure that leaves you brain dead, or you are in any way unable to communicate your wishes, your doctor will know that you chose earlier to decline resuscitation or artificial life support.  Or the doctor will know that you choose to be kept alive in any circumstance.  The point is, that it is YOUR choice and it is exceedingly good planning to make a Living Will. 

This is why for more than 20 years, end of life planning has been covered by Medicare.  The Republican senator from Georgia, Senator Isakson was the person who wanted the end of life planning to be covered under any new healthcare bill and inserted the language into the draft.  End of life planning has never been a controversial issue until this week. Why?

I am afraid the answer is that folks who are promoting this story are flat out lying.  Why?  Because the health insurance companies are trying anything they can think of to stop the passage of healthcare reform that will level the playing field, bring down costs and force them to reap less profits.  They know that senior citizens are very sensitive to the idea of changes in the healthcare system too, beacuse seniors rely heavily on the medical community.  Seniors also are the most politically active demographic in America.  So the insurance industry’s logic is, scare the seniors into opposing the bill and it will not pass.  This is why they made up the story about the legislation calling for death panels that will decide if the elderly are “too sick to treat” (read too expensive to treat) and should therefore be left to die or wore, be “put to sleep”. 

Don’t believe me that this story was the product of a calculated strategy to lie to the American people?  Check out this link to an article in the NY Times for the details on the exact origins of the story. 

Lastly I was saddened because as a citizen, these kinds of bald-faced lies insult my intelligence and should insult yours too.  I mean really, regardless of how our elected leaders disappoint their constituencies on both sides of the political spectrum – no matter how corrupt or unfaithful or compromised we believe them to be – do we really believe any of them would vote in favor of allowing our grandparents to die of neglect or be killed for profit?

4 Responses to “End of Life Planning Doesn’t Kill Granny”

  1. Anthony, why do we need anything in this legislation then? What is the point to having it in regulation that this counseling must be done? Isn’t this something that should remain private between a physician and the patient? I worry about adding regulation that can then be modified later …. just my thoughts (I am a hospice volunteer and support the hospice movement!)

  2. Margie to answer your question, its not that the legislation mandates that folks participate in end of life planning. It merely stipulated that if a patient chooses to engage in this activity, that a public health care option would pay for its coverage. In this way, by making it covered, it would prompt more folks to do it. However, it would not be compulsory. My point was just that the opponents of real reform are taking bits of the bill out of context and intentionally distorting them for purposes of scaring vulnerable populations away from supporting what will certainly be beneficial to them. This is a classic case of scaring folks into voting against their own self interest.

  3. Anthony, I can see your points; however, did you know that when a physician consults with a patient that physician bills for that time so in fact, reimbursement already happens?

    Most people do not go to the doctor just for this kind of consultation with their physician and the conversations about end of life come about during those office visits.

    I still worry about anything put into regulation that can be changed later ….

  4. The reality is that most patient are unaware of what they are entitled too. The saddest part is that things are always taken out of context to benefit a cause. I don’t agree with it. This is way intelligent people should be aware and make it their business to be properly informed. Waking up Americans is not easy and change is inevitable. The clauses are there in the insurance policy but how many insurance company give a comprehensible explanation without having to look at the fine print? We have a right to stay informed and if we do not see to find or get the truth, we might as well continue living being lead-by-the-nose.

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