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When the truth doesn’t serve your goals, scare them to death.

Posted by Sasha Golden | Aug 01, 2009 | 0 Comments

Section 1233 of the House health care reform bill provides Medicare funding so doctors can be paid for a voluntary conversation with elders, who can be given “an explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.”

Now, you may not agree with the health care reform bills. You may not even agree that it's needed or desirable. But are the national Republicans and their pals in talk radio so intellectually and morally bankrupt that they've resorting to this reprehensible garbage in an effort to kill health care reform?

But on right-leaning radio programs, religious e-mail lists and Internet blogs, the proposal has been described as “guiding you in how to die,” “an ORDER from the Government to end your life,” promoting “death care” and, in the words of antiabortion leader Randall Terry, an attempt to “kill Granny.”

People need facts to make informed choices. Doctors and nurses are trained to present information about options for treatment in a manner which encourages patient autonomy. Whether the medical provider personally agrees or disagrees with your decision is not legally or ethically relevant. What is relevant is that the patient receives the data needed which in combination with one's own religious or moral viewpoint, will lead to an informed choice; and then have well-drafted advance directives which communicates that choice with treatment providers and loved ones included with your estate plan. Not only will you get the care that you want to have, but you make sure that your loved ones aren't forced to go to court to seek guardianship in order to authorize such care.

But then, what we're seeing is the opposite of intellectual honesty.

The attacks on talk radio began when Betsy McCaughey, who helped defeat President Bill Clinton's health-care overhaul 16 years ago, told former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) that mandatory counseling sessions with Medicare beneficiaries would “tell them how to end their life sooner” and would teach the elderly how to “decline nutrition . . . and cut your life short.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) said they object to the idea because it “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.”

Remember, these are many of the same people who rammed a measure through Congress endorsing the State of Florida's effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive, arguing that the legislature should interfere with the acts of her legal guardian and the courts because she didn't have a living will. So, by this shameless logic, paying doctors to have voluntary discussions with their patients about medical options and advance directives leads to earlier, state-sponsored deaths, but it's perfectly all right for legislators to interfere with the most painful discussion a family can have because there was nothing in writing to tell a doctor what to do.

About the Author

Sasha Golden

Alexandra “Sasha” Golden received her undergraduate and law degrees from Boston College, and has been practicing law in Massachusetts since 1994. Attorney Golden is a long-standing member of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and of the Probate and So...


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