You’ll probably be hearing a lot about death panels these next few days.
That’s because Medicare, the federal insurance program for elderly Americans, wants to start reimbursing doctors for having conversations with their elderly patients about death. Those talks might cover things like how much medical treatment a person is willing to endure in exchange for the chance of a few more months on the planet, and the circumstances under which a person would prefer to let go.
Similar ideas were stripped out of the the Affordable Care Act after that great medical intellect Sarah Palin started using the provocative term “death panels” to describe them. It was picked up by Obama-haters everywhere and the end-of-life counseling notion was soon declared DOA. A lot of [opportunist] media outlets used the language to describe Medicare’s announcement…
You can pretty much count on the death-panel trolls crawling back—some of them might even be running for president. Times have changed, and we’ve probably gotten smarter on this, but you can count on some of the old death-panel trolls to come crawling back—and some of them might even be running for president. We’ll see. In any case, they will be profoundly and tragically wrong. The proposed conversations will not only save the healthcare system a bundle, they will improve the quality and duration of people’s final days. Even tea partiers will benefit from the policy, which, if it survives its critics, will almost certainly be adopted by private insurers. (Some are already doing it.)
Michael Mechanic supplements the article with an earlier interview of author, surgeon, and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande, whose best-seller “Being Mortal” covers this topic. A worthwhile read. Click the link up top to RTFA.
I visit this topic from time-to-time. As a cranky old geek, questions of mortality are closer to my own life than most. As I said in January, “We had our first Death Panel get-together with my wife’s doctor a few weeks back. I have nothing but contempt for the conservative idjits who coined that term – so, of course, I deliberately use it as a joke. My wife’s doctor didn’t smile.”