New York Times on Care at the End of Life
Over the weekend, we were encouraged to open our copy of Sunday’s New York Times to read this in an editorial, “Care at the End of Life,” about end-of-life decisions and planning:
Three years ago, at the height of the debate over health care reform, there was an uproar over a voluntary provision that encouraged doctors to discuss with Medicare patients the kinds of treatments they would want as they neared the end of life. That thoughtful provision was left out of the final bill after right-wing commentators and Republican politicians denounced it falsely as a step toward euthanasia and “death panels.”
Fortunately, advance planning for end-of-life decisions has been going on for years and is continuing to spread despite the demagogy on the issue in 2009. There is good evidence that, done properly, it can greatly increase the likelihood that patients will get the care they really want. And, as a secondary benefit, their choices may help reduce the cost of health care as well.
… No matter what the death-panel fearmongers say, end-of-life conversations and medical orders detailing what care to provide increase the confidence of patients that they will get the care they really want. In some cases, that could well mean the request to be spared costly tests, procedures and heroic measures that provide no real medical benefit.
But while we’re happy to see the New York Times tackling advance care planning, we think advance planning isn’t just for the end of life. It’s also for medical crises – for the 20-year-old on her way back to college after a break who is in a car accident or for the 35-year-old who collapses suddenly while out jogging.
Healthcare emergencies can arise at any time in your life, and some, while not life threatening, may prevent you from expressing your wishes. Less than a third of Americans currently have an advance directive. As a result, millions of Americans arrive at these most vulnerable moments of their lives unable to face them in the manner of their choosing.