August 9, 2009

CHARLES LANE, IN THE WASHINGTON POST: House Bill Oversteps on End-of-Life Issues.

I was not reassured to read in an Aug. 1 Post article that “Democratic strategists” are “hesitant to give extra attention to the issue by refuting the inaccuracies, but they worry that it will further agitate already-skeptical seniors.”

If Section 1233 is innocuous, why would “strategists” want to tip-toe around the subject? Perhaps because, at least as I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous.

Until now, federal law has encouraged end-of-life planning — gently. In 1990, Congress required health-care institutions (not individual doctors) to give new patients written notice of their rights to make living wills, advance directives and the like — but also required them to treat patients regardless of whether they have such documents. . . . Section 1233, however, addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones. Supporters protest that they’re just trying to facilitate choice — even if patients opt for expensive life-prolonging care. I think they protest too much: If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to “bend the curve” on health-care costs?

Read the whole thing.

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