In an abrupt change of course, the Obama administration will revise a Medicare regulation to eliminate references to counseling about end-of-life planning that were to be required at annual physical examinations for elderly Medicare recipients. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times:
While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor. The renewed debate over advance care planning threatened to become a distraction to administration officials who were gearing up to defend the health law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.
Indeed, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader who is to become speaker today, said that the provision regarding end-of-life planning could be a step “down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.”
Doctors and supporters of hospice care had supported, and praised, the measure. As the mother of a child who’s severely autistic, such planning is a necessary part of responsible parenthood. As I wrote, if my husband and I don’t plan ahead now for our son’s care as an adult, and also when we are gone and when he himself is elderly, no one will.
In 2008, Palin had posted a note on her Facebook page in which she stated that the President’s ‘death panel’ could ‘kill’ her ‘Down Syndrome baby’—a statement that makes it all too clear how little she understands about what the long-term care of a disabled child involves.
Indeed, the President’s now-endangered health care legislation shows thoughtful foresight about the needs of individuals with disabilities by requiring greater access to home and community based services for them, rather than by placing them in nursing homes or institutional facilities.
It looks like Sarah Palin’s tagging end-of-life planning as tantamount to ‘death panels’ has (sorry for the choice of words) killed advanced care planning. And her comments, and Boehner’s, only show how very, very much we need to discuss such counseling, if we’re going to take care of those who are sick in ways that are respectful to their wishes, and that maintain their dignity.
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