After observing, up close and personal, my mother's "end-of-life" experience I have mixed thoughts on the subject. She was on her way out and they were keeping her alive all on Medicare's tab. In the last 6 weeks of her life, I bet the hospital and doctor's billed the government more than 150,000.00 on the ol' girl's demise. However, when the well started running dry, they kindly "put my mother down" much like a veterinarian might do with a terminally ill animal.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they could keep her around a bit longer. I know she would have appreciated it too if she had been conscience enough to realize she was still alive.
However, if it was me, I would have had them pull the plug as soon as they knew I was knocking on heaven's door, before I could no longer wipe my own ass.
Moral of the story: Make your own "end of life" decisions now when you are clear headed and logical, instead of leaving these decisions in the hands of those who just can't bring themselves to let you go. (Including doctor$ and hospital$.) Leaving the "pull the plug" decision to someone else is not fair to you or them when the grim reaper comes calling. Needlessly postponing the inevitable might be a cash cow to the medical profession but it's a drain on society. If they could have saved/extended my mom's life and given her some sort of quality of life, I would have approved of a million dollar treatment. But she was merely kept alive to drain the teat of the gov't cash cow for as long as they could suck it.
OMFG. What on earth is wrong with advising doctors to talk to their patients about end-of-life options??? And to encourage them to sign Health Care Powers of Attorney? And to execute Living Wills?
Do you not understand that medicine is as much about money as it is about any other aspect of a patient's health? It is time that we faced the fact that we are going to die!!! And time we faced that prolonging a patient's suffering in the name of some twisted sense of humanity is wrong.
At $10,000 a pop, doctors and hospitals are quite happy pumping chemotherapy into dying patients' veins until the very end. It is time we as a society grew up and faced reality. We are going to die. Terminal illnesses exist. And even if we can cure every terminal illness on the planet earth, we will simply dry up and blow away.
Death panels. Ridiculous.
The concern is that certain "end of life options" that are cheaper than treatment will be the ones promoted. I have no problem if the patient wants to give up, I just don't want them talked into it.
But that's not what's being proposed. What's being proposed is the discussion of ALL end-of-life options. I think that's appropriate. When my mom was dying, she was given the option of being put in a coma for a week... and then dying, or just dying. She chose the latter. The options are just that. Folks making a big deal out of this are wrong.
I quoted the above commentary because they all speak to both the personal and practical aspect of this dilemma.
On the one hand, I understand the concerns most people have. It's as X Factor points out. If doctors start seeing their terminally ill Medicare patients as "cash cows" and keep them alive just to sqeeeeeeeeeeze as much federal funds from them as they can even if it means placing them on life-support and lying to the heart struck caregiving, surviving family members, when does the fiduciary patient care end with such doctors who swore an oath to preserve life despite the cost to the patient and his/her family? In such unscruplous situations, the doctor could privately reason that "keeping that patient alive didn't cost the patient nor his/her family a dime; it was all on the federal government's tab". I say regardless of who paid for that "end-of-life care", the attending physician should still do the right thing and NOT take advantage of the vulnerable emotional state of the surviving family members nor the patient's caregiver.
The other side of the coin as I see it is the concerns for the patient. In this regard, there is a two-pronged personal issue at stake here. First, you have the patient probably being caught unawares as to the extend of his/her injury/illness prior to being hospitalized. In such cases, it is the duty of the attending physician to properly and fully inform the patient, his/her primary caregiver and/or surviving family members of the exact medical condition, treatment option and potential outcome of any and all proposed/prescribed medical treatments including surgical options. When a physician fails to properly inform in this regard, he has done the patient a grave disservice. There's just no two-ways about it here. Second, the patient does have a right to weight his/her treatment options carefully including how he may choose to die in his final days even if passing away means he does so at home in his own bed. The patient deserves to know what to expect, as well as his surviving family members/primary caregiver so that everyone involved understands exactly what the patient's needs are in his/her dying days. Why ANYONE would have a problem with this doctor-patient treatment and caregiving exchange is beyond me! It's informative care, not "well, since you're gonna die anyway, may as well not take these drugs or undergo this treatment; it would be such a waste of your time, your families and essential medicine or surgical procedures best reserves for those who stand a fighting chance at surviving." What a load of BS!!!
I experienced the same thing both Captian America and CaptainCourtesy did prior to my mother passing from cancer 2 years ago. To the best of my knowledge, she died peacefully in her sleep without the aid of life preserving drugs which would have merely prolonged the inevitable. (I was unable to be there with her at the end as I'm the only married child among my brother (who died soon after my mother's passing) and my three sisters, but thank God my siblings were there.) As far as I'm aware, the doctors did everything they could to care for her including recommending Hospice care, until she passed away.
So, for those who truly believe "end-of-life care" is just some fancy way of saying, "get rid of the sick, incurable slug," may God have mercy on your soul. Life, even in facing death, is still such a precious thing.