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. (This link randomly selected from the screeching found by searching "end-of-life care" on Google Blogs.) 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.
(cross-posted from The Solipsistic Me)