Last Friday night, my father asked me to kill him.
This is not the central fact around which tomorrow's health care summit at Blair House will, or should, revolve. But I'd like it on the record somewhere that I asked all those going there, including the President, to think more about people like my father - patients, in our hospitals, at this moment - and less about elections and political points and "crashing the party."
This is hastily composed while our show is delayed by what I was told was impossible (a time out, during Olympic Curling Overtime - as I asked, "a time out from WHAT?")I did not have time, between events at the hospital and here, to prepare an early diary, but now the fates (or the stones) have fallen in just the right order in Vancouver.
I'm focusing on one thing in tonight's Comment. The night my father asked me to stop his treatment.
I get his attention again. I ask him: do you want me to stop all of this? And he looks at me and mouths "yes." And I ask him: you understand what happens then. And he looks at me and mouths "yes." And I ask him: you realize you are not terminally ill, and if we do stop all of this, it might not be quick. And he mouths "stop this." And I say, trying to joke him out of it -- and trust me, gallows humor is your best defense in this situation -- "what? You want me to smother you with a pillow?" And he mouths "yes - kill me"...
And as I left that night the full impact of these last six months washed over me. What I had done, conferring with the resident in ICU, the conversation about my father's panicky, not-in-complete-control-of-his-faculties demand that all treatment stop, about the options and the consequences and the compromise - the sedation -- the help for a brave man who just needed a break... that conversation, that one -- was what these ghouls who are walking into Blair House tomorrow morning decided to call "Death Panels."
Your right to have that conversation with a doctor -- not the government, but a doctor -- and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options are when Dad says "kill me" or what your options are when Dad is in a coma and can't tell you a damn thing, or what your options are when everybody is healthy and happy and coherent and you're just planning ahead -- your right to have the guidance and the reassurance of a professional who can lay that out for you... that's a quote "death panel."
That, right now, is the legacy of the protests of these sub-humans who get paid by the insurance companies, who say these things for their own political gain... or like that one fiend... for money.
For money Betsy McCaughey told people that this conversation about life and death and relief and release, and also about no, keep treating him no matter what happens, until the nation runs out of medicine... she told people it's a death panel and she did that... for money.
It's a life panel.
A life panel -- it can save the pain of the patient and the family -- it is the difference between you guessing what happens next, and you being informed about what probably will, and that's the difference between you sleeping at night or second-guessing and third-guessing and thirtieth-guessing.
And it can also be the place where the family says 'we want you to keep him alive no matter what, we believe in miracles' and the doctor saying yes. Nobody gets to say no except the patient and the family.
It's a life panel. And damn those who call it otherwise to hell.
I'm hoping I can get through this. He wants me to tell those going to Blair House tomorrow something important.