Sunday, August 16, 2009

Life -- and Death -- Matters

Lost among the lies about government "death panels" -- beyond the fact no bills contained any such thing and no one advocated any such thing -- seems to be the point that many people truly want to be able to openly discuss their thoughts about what they want to happen when their quality of life wanes or the quality of their thought processes grows suspect. They want to remain in control of the decision-making process, providing directives to those they entrust with their care when the time comes.

So the thought was to include the possibility of payment to have that discussion with one's doctor. Some people -- including those who formerly showed support for such an idea with their votes -- resorted to demagoguery against such a provision. And it appears others are now backing off from including such a provision in reform bills.

Why is it suddenly a bad thing to have more information? That seems to be the argument most often used when politicians want to tighten restrictions on abortion and add waiting periods and parental consent and the such. But when it comes to end-of-life issues when people do need to know what "heroic efforts" might mean -- and cost -- or what the consequences of having a "do not resuscitate" order are, apparently that is a meeting of far less importance and undeserving of underwriting according to these folks.

Doctors take an oath to "do no harm" and that includes not subjecting an individual to mounting medical care when the hope for survival is slim and a person has indicated he or she wants no part of it. But first they have to know what the patient wants. It's too bad that payment for such a discussion has become one more victim of politics and appears to have a DNR attached to it. Here's hoping someone puts this provision on life support so that more people can have the ability to have that discussion. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death.

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