Monday, September 14, 2009

More On Death Panels

Mere Comments breaks it down. Basically, if doctors think you look like you're dying (even if you're not really so close) they put you on the "pathway" to a painkiller-induced death. It's like the old Monty Python gag: "I'm getting better!" "You'll be stone cold dead in a moment." "I feel happy--I fell happy--" THUD. "He died . . . "

This doesn't happen because bureaucrats hate old people (not most of them anyway). It happens because no government on the face of the planet can afford to pay for every person's end of life care. Costs have to be trimmed just to keep the program afloat. These choices are tricky for individuals, too, but I'd still rather have my family make the tough call rather than my government. I bet you would, too.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

According to this AP article reprinted in AARP's newsletter, the proposed healthcare bill would not create anything like a death panel.

And the article that you link to doesn't seem to indicate a "death panel" either. If you can't tell if someone's dying, who better to judge it than a team of doctors? Doctors are supposed to evaluate medical conditions. That's their job. And unfortunate but true, life and death are medical conditions.

I don't think that it makes a difference whether a doctor is employed by the government or a private hospital. No hospital or insurance company can pay for every person's end-of-life care either.

And honestly, I don't think money is the driving force here. Many people who want to keep a comatose loved one on life support are willing to go bankrupt for it. And many people who pull the plug do so for emotional reasons.

I think you're touching on an issue that's plagued every doctor who has access to technology that can keep a body alive long after it's given up the ghost.

While it's true that a doctor's perscription can usually be refused by the family, he is still very influential in this situation, and some doctors are uncomfortable with this power.

(and now I'm going to paraphrase something that I rememeber reading but can't find the source for...)

If a doctor thinks he sees the writing on the wall, should he read it aloud to the patient's family?

Some doctors will stay silent and let the family come to their own conclusions. However, this may result in years of uncertainty, emotional limbo, and intense guilt on the family's part when and if the plug is pulled.

This is why other doctors believe that it's their duty to call it as they see it. They'd rather take the blame for a bad decision than make the family shoulder a responsibilty that the family may not be emotionally equipped for.

(end paraphrase)

Of course, the ideal scenerio is for a patient to have written a living will beforehand. Who better to make the tough call? (or say, "Please keep me alive for as long as possible?" A living will can indicate either preference)

In an ideal world, the questions addressed by a living will would be ticked off on a driver's license or govt ID application/renewal, right before "Do you want to be an organ donor?" Answering the questions would be optional, but since most people know their own preferences, I think this would save a lot of trouble and sorrow.