Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of Life, Disability, and the Delusion of Death Panels

The New York Times over the past few days has published two nuanced articles on end-of-life issues, both rebutting the panic over the idea there will be compulsory counseling suggesting voluntary rejection of coverage. They are worth reading.

Bioethicist Becomes a Lightning Rod for Criticism
By Jim Rutenberg
Published: August 24, 2009
Largely quoting his past writings out of context this summer, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, labeled Dr. Emanuel a “deadly doctor” who believes health care should be “reserved for the nondisabled” — a false assertion that Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, repeated on the House floor.
At the End, Offering Not a Cure but Comfort
By Anemona Hartocollis
Published: August 19, 2009
Palliative care has become a recognized subspecialty, with fellowships, hospital departments and medical school courses aimed at managing patients’ last months. It has also become a focus of attacks on plans to overhaul the nation’s medical system, with false but persistent rumors that the government will set up “death panels” to decide who deserves treatment. Many physicians dismiss these complaints as an absurd caricature of what palliative medicine is all about.
The problem in the current discussion about how to remodel our national health care model is that this issue is ammunition for demagogues. That in turn overshadows the legitimate concerns of people with disabilities, always the first drafted as discussion fodder in the campaign for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

No one gets out of this world alive, obviously. All people with disabilities want is an equal and fair opportunity to squeeze it dry before we go.
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