Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Pro-Life" Groups Still Trying to Make Stink Over End of Life Provisions in Health Care

Under the title, "'Death Panels' Return," LifeSiteNews tries to revive the summer's noise about "death panels" and provisions for end of life care consultations in the newly announced health care reform bill:

They're back. The provisions on advanced-planning directives labeled "death panels" by concerned observers have re-emerged in the final version of the US House of Representatives health-care reform bill. Moreover, the bill also lacks protective language that would prevent reimbursement of physicians counseling assisted suicide as a legitimate "end-of-life" option in states like Washington and Oregon.

Section 240 of H.R. 3962 "Affordable Health Care for America Act" requires insurance companies offering a "qualified health benefits plan" on the health insurance exchange to provide information related to "end-of-life planning" to enrolled individuals.

Although the section stipulates that advance directives "shall not promote suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing," none of the terms are defined in the bill. That poses a problem since some states like Oregon and Washington have laws legalizing physician-assisted suicide, but these states employ different terms.

Oregon instead has opted for the terms "physician-assisted death" or "physician aid in dying" as substitutes for "physician assisted suicide" after the pro-euthanasia group Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society) asked the state's health and human services department for the language change. The state of Washington has also followed suit.

On that basis, a huge loophole could emerge through H.R. 3962, by which the distribution of "end of life" materials could also include information about assisted suicide options in states such as Oregon and Washington. The bill makes clear that nothing in that section should be construed to preempt a patient's decision to "withhold or withdraw of medical treatment or medical care" or to "withhold or withdraw of nutrition or hydration." The bill also makes clear that sec. 240 shall not be "construed to preempt or otherwise have any effect on State laws regarding advance care planning, palliative care, or end-of-life decision-making."

Yet, anyone familiar with the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon or Washington knows that a candidate for aid in dying must request it; doctors are precluded from suggesting it to any patient.

Further, attempting to prevent the elderly or terminal from having choice in how they die, as opponents to end of life counseling are doing, is a great disservice to our dying patients.

Just as these "pro-life" groups are working to further limit access to abortion and reproductive health services for women by protesting the health care reform bill, they are working to deny the elderly and terminal choice in dying. They are on the wrong side of public opinion, current state and federal laws, and on the wrong side of the debate over rights to health care for all.

For additional commentary from others who are making stuff up: Wesley J. Smith at First Things mongers the fear and asks, "Could assisted suicide promoters be paid to fill out death request forms?"

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Blogger Neoptolemus said...

Nota Bene: there is nothing wrong or shameful about being on the wrong side of public opinion, or current state and federal rights - in fact, many other civil rights movements have occupied that same place before gaining widespread acceptance and ultimately re-writing the human rights debate.

November 1, 2009 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

Neoptolemus, you are absolutely right. Thanks for calling me on a false justification. I believe in personal rights. Often the way we achieve them is through vote or law, either the courts or the government.

I was responding to false information within the references that claim lack of public approval for abortion (women's reproductive rights, contraception, access to these services in spite of a conscience clause) or for elder and terminal choice in dying.

Offering, and covering under health care, end of life counseling is an improvement of service which I strongly support.

November 1, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

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