“Death panels” lie prevents dying with dignity

WASHINGTON — When Congress made its foolish 2005 foray   into the heartbreaking case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman kept alive for years in a vegetative state, I called my brother to reiterate my end-of-life directives. “Don’t let Mom interfere,” I told him sternly, knowing that parents can be irrational about letting go of a dying child.

My mother, however, is clear-eyed about her own demise. She, too, has assigned to my brother her medical care power of attorney, giving him legally-protected decision-making authority should she become too ill to issue instructions to a doctor.

Apparently, my mother and I are unusual. Though the certainty of death is one of the few things shared by every human, we tend to put off thinking about it. According to the Pew Research Center, only 29 percent of Americans reported having living wills in a 2006 poll. Even fewer have gone as far as my mother and I  — appointing a health care proxy.

Oddly, a loud and ill-informed band of activists has organized to make sure that Americans continue to procrastinate about end-of-life directives. In what has to be one of the strangest political battles fought in modern times, a motley assortment of Obama-haters, rightwing conspiracy theorists and Republican politicians have joined to ensure that more families struggle through painful Schiavo-like situations.

You may remember the infamous “death panels” fabrication, which reverberated through the political landscape in 2009. It was a falsehood jerry-rigged to a perfectly sane proposal — that Medicare pay doctors to ask patients a few questions: Have you thought about end-of-life directives? Do you want a living will?

The policy sought to take advantage of the great weakness of our health care system: it pays doctors for procedures, not outcomes. Given that, doctors would be more likely to raise the subject with patients if they were paid for the time they spent. If experience is any guide, patients are less likely to bring it up themselves. But any patient’s participation would have been purely voluntary. No one would have been forced to have the conversation.

From that thoughtful policy change, Sarah Palin and others spread the “death panels” lie, persuading millions of Americans that the federal government would empanel bureaucrats to decide when to “pull the plug on Granny.”

Because the falsehood proved so powerful, Democrats eliminated the end-of-life counseling provision from the health care reform bill passed last March. Medicare administrator Donald Berwick tried to resurrect the provision through a

directive from his office late last year, but he was overruled recently by Obama administration officials who feared more political controversy.

How sad. The irony is this: A failure to prepare for the inevitability of death ensures that doctors, nurses and hospital administrators will end up making end-of-life decisions for countless terminally ill patients. If patients feared losing their autonomy — the right to make a highly-charged and personal decision for themselves — they should have welcomed the new Medicare initiative. It makes sense to confront those matters while you’re still healthy enough to think clearly.

According to research published in the British Medical Journal, “Advance care planning improves end-of-life care and patient and family satisfaction and reduces stress, anxiety and depression in surviving relatives.” The research only confirms what common sense suggests.

When my father learned he had colon cancer— he was only 57 — he didn’t have much time to think about whether he wanted doctors to pursue extraordinary measures to keep him alive. His cancer had metastasized by the time it was discovered. He was dead seven weeks after diagnosis.

But he was fully cognizant — clear-headed and alert — for most of those final days, and he used the time wisely and well. He wrapped up duties at the church where he had served as a deacon for decades. He said good-bye to his children.

And he told my mother in no uncertain terms that he was ready to face the end. He wanted no extraordinary interventions. “Put me in a blue casket,” he said.

It was hard enough to lay my father to rest under those circumstances. I simply cannot imagine how painful it would have been if he been too sick to tell us how he wanted to die.

247 comments Add your comment

Get Real

January 7th, 2011
8:09 pm

Down goes Frazier

Down goes Frazier

Nothing Is Free

January 7th, 2011
8:11 pm

OMG He’s still here.

At least tonight you can go to Bookman’s and pretend you are in a social situation, probably the only one that you and you lack of emotional control can handle.

So how many hours this week, kid? 50-60, and in every argument, you are completely humiliated. .

Well, not my problem. My problem is making reservations for two at this late on Friday night.

Have fun at the cyber party at Bookman’s loser. It’s the closest you will ever get to an actual social situation, but considering your lack of emotional control, that’s definitely best.

Ta-ta, and please take it easy on whomever you live with.

You really need to get a life.

Nothing Is Free

January 7th, 2011
8:15 pm

Kammy

It’s not me that has been tongue kissing the little twit.

You and the loser have fun at bookman’s pretending to be in a social situation.

Maybe you could dedicate a song to him. Calm him down.

Get a life, Kammy.

You are getting really bitter.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:17 pm

in every argument, you are completely humiliated

Is everyone just as devastated by this news as I must be humiliated? He reminds me of the first guy in this clip.

Nothing Is Free

January 7th, 2011
8:18 pm

Loser

BTW. Reported you again for reposting a rape accusation.

Nothing Is Free

January 7th, 2011
8:19 pm

Oh you are back.

Have you ever had a date?

Nothing Is Free

January 7th, 2011
8:20 pm

Kammy and your butt buddy:

See ya. I won’t be thinking about you.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:21 pm

But not the part about you sleeping with your mother…interesting that only one part of the parody of your offensive Beck style would be something you report like a bully who tries to beat up someone in the school yard and gets a big can of whup azz.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:23 pm

Now why dont you be a good little troll…quit while you are behind and just keep move on without the insults and lies…

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
8:23 pm

Tick…tick…tick….

Get Real

January 7th, 2011
8:27 pm

I was on a blog and a hockey game broke out

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:30 pm

the question is of course – is it wise to squander taxpayer $$ to pay a highly trained Dr compensation FOR TALKING TO A CITIZEN? Should that citizen, with the assistance of newspapers for information, be able to accomplish this without the spoon feeding policies of the liberal left, composed primarily of the female gender?

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:34 pm

A hockey game! Funny….Bookman would have like that.

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
8:36 pm

I was on a blog and a Shari Lewis sock-puppet show broke out.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:37 pm

Paddy…if it is a requirement in private insurance policies…taxpayer dollars are involved how?

If you agree with concept but not the mechanism of delivery then that is a different discussion.

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:38 pm

kevinbgoode is one odd cookie, seemingly completely disconnected from capitalism & Wall Street. Remarkable for a human being having been born in America.

Get Real

January 7th, 2011
8:38 pm

Lamb Chop….my favorite..

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:39 pm

Get Real

January 7th, 2011
8:40 pm

Paddy O

Like I said regarding kevinbgoode…right through the windshield…. Serious Drain Bramage

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:41 pm

CT’s article stated it would be paid by medicare to Dr’s. Her premise, the wise contemplation of your future demise can not genuinely be argued with. Whether or not the government should pay, or mandate it be done citizens to other citizens, is quite another. I would urge the AMA to include it for all patients over 40 – you’ve been to the Dr’s office when they “update your file” – they could include this info there on one of the forms they make you fill out every 60 days or so.

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:43 pm

kevin is always miffed, like to play devils advocate (appearing to be serious, though); angry about the society he lives in. Fairly sad, really. But if your life long purpose is to diverge as far as possible from the main stream, bumping into omnipresent reality causes some serious aggravation resulting in chronic miffedness.

Get Real

January 7th, 2011
8:46 pm

Paddy…that pretty much sums it up…

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
8:47 pm

I thought it was more Senor Wences

Nope.

Too girlie.

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:47 pm

The Terry Schiavo interference was a very sad day to conservative Republicans. It contributed to their demise in 06. However, the Hot Tub DeLay Repubs do not now exist in the House of Representatives. Rep Bachman has stated that she has identified 450 billion in cuts. If they are not social programs, she has done a great job. I could cut at least 1.5 trillion in 6 months, but you would hear a giant sucking sound of capital leaving the economy. 500 billion a year should be doable.

kevinbgoode

January 7th, 2011
8:50 pm

Oh Paddy. . .you are such a psychic.

And being a good conservative, I can’t imagine you provide such pronouncements without compensation.

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:51 pm

video game makers once were paid to post “Losers Don’t Do Drugs” “William Sessions, FBI Director” on the screens of games not live. How is this a wise use of taxpayer funds?

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
8:52 pm

kevin – just a decent talent for cause & affect. People are not so thoroughly unique or distinct as the American Psychological Society would have you believe – but, they are trying to increase their market.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
8:54 pm

Paddy…you can make the same claim about a lot of media messaging but there are ways that they track these things and determine if they are effective. So the question is what evidence do you have that it was not?

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
8:59 pm

So the question is what evidence do you have that it was not?

Keep, unless I miss my guess, it’s the same evidence that he has that a mortgage isn’t a secured loan.

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
9:02 pm

So many puppets, so useless of mind.

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
9:07 pm

So many puppets, so useless of mind.

Lamb Chop….my favorite..

Keep up the good fight!

January 7th, 2011
9:11 pm

I am off to late dinner party…have a great night. Check under the bridge for more trolls and troll puppets……”its only a flesh wound.”

Paddy O

January 7th, 2011
9:41 pm

the effectiveness is ungaugable. the use of the funds, when you have a huge deficit, is what makes it profoundly foolish. What, 1% of the kids playing the games might be dissuaded from the drug use? Amazing the sheep who have such perfect faith in the government.

Kamchak

January 7th, 2011
9:53 pm

Lil' Barry Bailout

January 8th, 2011
6:40 am

ctucker: “Death panels” lie prevents dying with dignity
————————

You lie.

Americans are fully capable of making their own decisions about end of life without government help.

Idiot libbtards think nothing happens without government. Voila, entitlement mentality. No wonder working Americans are supporting so many worthless parasites and throwing hundreds of billions of dollars every year down the black hole of welfare.

gator24

January 8th, 2011
7:05 am

Some people just don’t get. Someone tell the Know Nothings it is voluntary and not the Federal Government telling you what to do. Damn, Damn, Damn, the Know Nothings will never learn anything if they keep watching Fox

TnGelding

January 8th, 2011
7:28 am

Death to the death panel terminology. You got this one right, Cynthia, death with dignity. And it will save 10s of billions of dollars annually. Let’s spend our medical care dollars wisely.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 8th, 2011
7:56 am

Buried in a Urinal story about the evil bankers raising checking account fees-

Recent federal regulation capped overdraft fees and certain levies on credit cards, and the Federal Reserve has proposed rules to limit what banks charge merchants to process debit purchases.

“The people who chronically overdraft will be saved those costs, but the revenue once [generated] by them will be paid by people who handle their accounts properly,” he said.-Urinal

I can remember when a bounced check was felony but now We The People carry the criminals around on our shoulders.

This is liberalism defined.

What a great incentive to be an adult and responsible, when the dummycrats have institutionalized sorry and lazy.

Be proud, America!

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 8th, 2011
8:06 am

What another succinct definition of liberalism, where the hopelessly ignorant and dull have been brainwashed to think that the federal government, a vast bureaucracy wholly committed to keeping itself bloated, cares about them, when they will be the first to be euthanized because they were too stupid to earn and save their own money.

Meanwhile the Kennedy’s and thee obozo’s and the Pelosi’s all have gold plated insurance policies bought with Other People’s Money, and boy, remember when Swimmer Kennedy got diagnosed with terminal cancer and steeped right up to the plate and refused care for himself, so that other, less fortunate people would receive it?

Yeah, neither do I hahahahahaha.

Suckers.

Vinny

January 8th, 2011
8:23 am

Oh Brother. Can’t you libs do ANYTHING without the help from government without your catterwalling about it?

PREPARE for once in you life by getting a living will and telling your significant other or family member about your wishes now. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for it, you frigging losers.

Chris Sanchez

January 8th, 2011
9:00 am

My oh my…is Ms. Cynthia Tucker advocating for personal responsibility? WOW! Who would have thought the day would come when Ms. Tucker speaks out about people actually be adults and making end of life decisions BEFORE the time comes to face those circumstances.

Now, how you tie that together with trying to give the government a role in is such a personal decision is beyond me! Your father was a wise man and clearly your mother shares that trait when it comes to the eventual end of her own life. Why in the world you would insist on inserting the government into one of the most personal of decision-making processes is puzzling.

Of course, if you want 100% of the people covered by government healthcare then the only way to control the exploding costs of such a program is to ration care. A large sum of money is spent trying to prolong life in those final days that could be saved so let’s have doctors “end-of-life counseling”. Sorry Ms. Tucker along with “hope” and “change”, you can keep the “end-of-life counseling” for yourself and your loved-ones. Most of the rest of us prefer the government simply BUT OUT!

The Misfit

January 8th, 2011
9:35 am

Cynthia please keep up the lies. I need a good laugh.

Nothing Is Free

January 8th, 2011
11:35 am

I just wonder why it’s always the healthy and living that want others to die with dignity.

All you libs that want to die with dignity, do it now while you are young and dignified.

There’s no dignity in death. You are alone and terrified. Go to a hospital and talk to people who are dying. See how concerned they are about whether you libs think they are being dignified.

You are talking about the state of others while they die. And then it is absolutely forbidden to talk about the policies and practices of past groups that said the same thing about other people’s deaths like the NAZIs.

I’m just glad that the light of truth is shinning on you, and what it is revealing is not a pretty sight.

james

January 8th, 2011
11:51 am

kevinbgoode- you may have missed the context of the comment dude- the libs say the constitution is too long while they whip out a 2200 page health care bill that has been nothing more than a paper weight on the desk- reading comprehension issues I suppose

Cynthia=HUSSY

January 8th, 2011
12:45 pm

How the hell are you Cynthia you old slut!

Union

January 8th, 2011
12:56 pm

funny.. the whole “death panel” issue.. it has nothing to do with end of life directives.. i have a living will with instructions on what to do should something happen to me. no big deal.. what seems to have been forgotten in all of this is at some point.. there will be a group of folks looking over someones medical records.. say a 45 year old.. trying to decide if that liver/kidney transplant is financially worth it for the “state”

45 too young you say? in the uk this is already occurring.. at some point the ages are going to come down and down.. given that this was never supposed to happen in the first place.

ms tucker.. you do a huge injustice with you snide and rhetorical bs.. some people may read what you write and may not realize that your level of ignorance is above and beyond the level that many could comprehend.

when medicare part a was passed in 1965, government experts projected costs to rise to $9 billion by 1990. total costs actually reached $67 billion. in 1987, medicaid added a special hospital subsidy to its coverage which was projected to cost $100 million. by 1992, costs stood at $11 billion per year.

so.. my question is.. are you ignorant or stupid when you believe the statistics and promises made by politicians that dont even know what it is they are passing in the first place?

magog

January 8th, 2011
1:03 pm

Republicans feign outrage over the Huck Finn edit, yet skip the original words of the Constitution to save face. Crass!