“A Daily Dose of Truth” (#5): Making end-of-life decisions

~Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole. One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Since the beginning of doctor-patient relationships, doctors have consulted with families about treatment and care for patients who are faced with end-of-life decisions.  Clergy are often involved in these conversations, as well as attorneys, because families struggle with heart-wrenching medical and moral decisions when medical treatment can no longer contribute to quality of life and human dignity. Further, the recommendation that all patients have living wills or advanced health care directives have left patients and families with questions that are best addressed by their doctors and other professionals.

Medicare benefits do not include payment for the time physicians spend in such consultations. With the limits imposed on many doctors for how much time they can actually spend with us, a provision to provide an “advance care planning consultation” was included in health care reform to compensate physicians for these conversations with Medicare enrollees. 

However, after the August 2009 furor over “death panels,” as these doctor-patient conversations were labeled by the opposition, the provision was dropped.

Health care reform was passed without this change to Medicare benefits. But most of us, not just Medicare beneficiaries, will continue to seek the counsel of our physicians as we make our own choices about the final days of our lives – while we still have the capacity to make such decisions for ourselves. And physicians will continue to consult with us because of their commitment to health, wholeness, and human dignity for their patients. 

For more information:

FactCheck – False Euthanasia Claims

PolitiFact – PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: Death PanelsSimply send an emailwith your suggestions.

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