Don’t Fear the Reaper: Informed Care does not equal Death Panels

26 Dec

In another great end-of-year surprise, the Obama administration has quietly restored a key element of health care reform. As part of new regulations for Medicare, doctors will be paid to provide patients with counseling on end-of-life care. This will allow people to have an informed conversation with their doctor as part of routine maintenance care, making decisions while calm and lucid that will aid in any care-giving necessary in the case of an accident or terminal disease.

You may remember the flap that terminal moron Sarah Palin created when this provision was included in the health care reform bill. She and the rest of the right-wing noise machine invented the phrase “death panels” and tried to terrify the country that medical care funding would be cut off for people who had terminal diseases. Even though this was a transparent lie, Congress removed the end-of-life provisions from the bill to ensure passage.

Bravo! to the Obama administration for using the rule-making process to find another way to ensure that all aspects of quality care are funded. Special thanks to Oregon’s own congressman Earl Blumenauer who helped craft the original proposal and supported the new regulation. It’s very sad that Blumenauer has asked people to keep quiet about the regulations, fearing a backlash, and sadder still that the backlash has begun. Now that the wingnuts are screaming death panels again, it is important for informed, rational people to face them down with the facts.

End-of-life care decisions are very important and should be made (and updated routinely) with your physician as part of regular care. I have first-hand experience in the value of such provisions. When my grandfather was terminally ill, everyone involved in his care – family, doctors, his retirement community, hospice – knew what he wanted and expected. Even though he was mostly lucid and communicative up to the end, it was a true blessing to have the key decisions made in advance so we could spend our last days with him in loving conversations and reminiscence, not wasting time on decisions he and my grandmother had already made. When he finally was so sick that he couldn’t communicate anymore, we were able to honor his wishes and provide the care he wanted.

If you haven’t thought through these difficult issues and created the necessary legal and medical documents, I strongly encourage you to do so, for everyone’s sake. If you hear the fear-mongering, please refute it with the clear, compassionate facts.

5 Responses to “Don’t Fear the Reaper: Informed Care does not equal Death Panels”

  1. Jennifer December 26, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that the only people that accept they will die are terrorists. Counseling people at the end of their life means that the terrorists win… clearly.

    PS: If I don’t die by the age of 37, then I don’t wanna die at all!

  2. Nathan Gray December 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    So… Do you ever actually read anything? Or do you just hear about things and then run somewhere to write about opinions about them?

    • rhulshofschmidt December 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

      Nathan – I must reply with a similar question. Did you actually read my post? I referred to a specific article (from the New York Times), which I then discuss. I also used my own personal experience to emphasize the point.
      I also point to another, opposing blog which relies on scare tactics and hollow invective. It provides no facts and its “Obama is a lying sneak” theme serves to underscore my secondary thesis.
      Certainly the post contains my opinions, that’s why I wrote it. But it is also based on facts and research, not screeching points and dogma. Do you have a specific point of objection? If not, your question seems oddly without context or meaning.

      • Nathan Gray December 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

        First let me take a step back. You seem like a pleasant enough guy, and you also seem well read. You and I are at opposite ends politically, and I am a little hot under the collar today with anyone who disagrees with me. The question/comment that I made was a little uncalled for. Though my attitude was the result of reading several of your posts, which I disagreed with, I was talking specifically about the health care reform bill. I have read almost 3/4 of it and it is frustrating when I hear someone talking it up when they, like our congress, have not read it. Thank you for your calm answer, and I’ll leave you alone now.

  3. rhulshofschmidt December 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Thanks, Nathan, that’s very gracious. The fast exchange of words on the Internet can certainly distract us from the substance of our debates at times. Best wishes, Robert.

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