Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dispelling the Myths of Health Care Reform: Individual Choice – Death Panels

Myth: Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at the end of your life. Health reform creates death panels that will encourage or even require euthanasia.

Fact: Health care reform may provide for the reimbursement of voluntary end of life counseling with your physician once every five years.


Under the House’s health care reform bill, Medicare would help to cover the cost of voluntary, private end-of-life counseling for individuals who want to consult with their family and physician about their care and their options to ensure that the patient is informed and their wishes are known. The Senate may choose not to address this issue in their bill.

When the time comes for end-of-life treatment, it is hard to make decisions on proper care amidst the emotions and grief of the moment. Yet studies show that people who discuss end-of-life care before they reach the need for treatment suffer less physical distress (and, yes, fewer costly procedures) in their final days.

Whether individuals prefer to receive every available treatment or want to set up a do-not-resuscitate order, putting plans in place ahead of time helps to alleviate both individual and family stress at critical moments. This is where end-of-life counseling comes in, covering such topics as managing symptoms, treatment preferences, hospice, living wills and appointing a trusted person to make decisions when the patient is incapacitated. End-of-life counseling helps individuals live with a diagnosis and allows patients to make choices about the care they want. It ensures that the patient, their family, and their physician are on the same page when it comes to the patient’s care. The end-of-life counseling allows a patient to have more informed choices and more control over their care. These are difficult topics to make decisions about – or to even talk about before making decisions - but important ones for a family’s peace-of-mind.

Since the service is voluntary, no one will be forced to attend a counseling session. But since the counseling covers such important material, many elders may be relieved to know that they can attend one at little to no charge.

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