The Washington Post – Who decides when medicine prolongs dying, not living?


The Spirited Atheist is back, after a break for obligations associated with impending book publication. One of the most irrational news developments I missed last month (there were so many) was President Obama’s abandonment of a modest, commonsensical proposal to allow Medicare to pay for voluntary consultations between patients and their doctors about end-of-life care. This was a cave-in to the extreme religious right, which takes the absurd position that merely talking with your doctor about this subject constitutes a “death panel.”

In my book Never Say Die: The Myth And Marketing of the New Old Age, I discuss the huge gap between Americans’ wishes about end-of-life care, as expressed in numerous public opinion polls, and what actually happens in too many instances–futile, expensive, often painful procedures performed on people too sick to leave the hospital alive–much less survive with a decent quality of life. Ninety percent of Americans say they want to die at home but only 20 percent do so. Half of Americans die in hospitals and another 25 percent in nursing homes, after a long period of suffering from chronic, incurable conditions that finally become untreatable. An astonishing one out of five die in intensive care units, often unconscious, isolated from loved ones and hooked up to machines that do nothing but prolong an inevitable death.

http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/spirited_atheist/2011/01/who_decides_when_medicine_prolongs_dying_not_living.html#more

 

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