Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurry Up and Die, Already!

Little wonder so many folks are showing up at health care protests, expressing anxiety over socialized medicine, health care rationing and "death panels". Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Jim Towey describes the Obama administration's ham-handed attempts to cut costs at the Veterans' Administration.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family."

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

...This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable. Worse, a July 2009 VA directive instructs its primary care physicians to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to "Your Life, Your Choices." Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America's 24 million veterans deserve better.

As do the intended victims of Democrats' rabid plans for socialized medicine. Consider the framing in "Your Life, Your Choices":

On the other hand, Jim Towey is the author of "Five Wishes", the most widely used living will in America, with more than 12 million copies in circulation. Unlike the VA's document, it contains no bias either for or against end-of-life medical care. Consumer Reports describes Five Wishes as a "well conceived" document and an NCI-NIH study praised its use as a living will.

Those who ridicule the notion of "death panels" need ask themselves only one question: if I am in that situation, which document would I prefer? Follow-up question: which document should be used by our veterans?

Hat tips: Curmudgeonly & Skeptical and Parkway Rest Stop.

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