Friday, September 4, 2009

Death Panels Again?

Let me start by saying the "death panel" thing was from the beginning overblown.

But it was real.

It was a sound-bite friendly way of expressing the truth that in a government-run system, the government has a financial incentive to help you die quicker. No one expects the old to be thrown into the gutter. Far from; they'd be given the best palliative care available. Just not curative care.

After all Medicare spends 80% of its funds in the last six months of a patient's life (or so we've been told repeatedly). We have to cut back, and that seems like the best place to do it.

As Anne Moore said in Salon,
"At the end of our long and increasingly longer lives, when we are terminally ill and in the last months of life, we must accept our bodies' decline, face our own mortality, gather our families and say goodbye. Say no to feeding tubes, ventilators, resuscitators, the isolation of ICU."
So should we have our doctors judge when a patient's reached those last six months and cut costs?

What if he's wrong?

Britain introduced guidelines "to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away. "

But "a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death."
"They look for signs that a patient is approaching their final hours, which can include if patients have lost consciousness or whether they are having difficulty swallowing medication.

However, doctors warn that these signs can point to other medical problems.

Patients can become semi-conscious and confused as a side effect of pain-killing drugs such as morphine if they are also dehydrated, for instance."
So are people with six years to live being denied treatment because they appear to be at the end of their lives? Maybe so.

No one appears to be claiming that anyone's out to kill Granny. But she's dying anyway.

It's a natural side-effect of government funded medical care.

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