I have to applaud Sen. Johnny Isakson, R.-GA for his efforts to include so-called death panels in the health care reform legislation. As I've been reading about the proposed plan to offer end-of-life counseling to Medicare recipients, I am painfully reminded of the time when I had to make those decisions for my mother.
She suffered from Huntington's Disease, an illness which destroys the mind and body. By the time she came to live in Albuquerque, where I placed her in a nearby nursing home, she was no longer capable of making end-of-life decisions. So it was left to me.
I wish I'd had a "death panel" as the scaremongers are calling it, a committee made up of doctors, health care professionals, social workers, and/or counselors, to help me make those decisions. Instead, I had a harried nursing home administrator, who shoved a stack of papers toward me and told me to sign "here, here and here." An Advanced Care Directive gave me pause. What did it mean to withhold life-saving treatment? In what circumstances would life-saving treatment be given or withheld? I wasn't even quite sure what CPR involved, or how a feeding tube worked. I certainly didn't want my mother kept alive by artificial means if that meant prolonging her pain, but at the time, she wasn't in any pain. I really couldn't envision what the end of her life might look like.
I had no idea what I was signing, and I had no one to help me make those decisions. If there had been someone there to explain the possible outcomes to me, I'd have gratefully accepted that assistance.
I'm morally offended when people like Sarah Palin suggest that those of us who support the proposed legislation want to "euthanize grandma". I'm against euthanasia. I simply wanted to do what was best for my mother.
Death panels are a scary image designed to sway public opinion. And the idea has been mocked, rightly so. But dying is a painful subject, one most people are reluctant to talk about. That's why those Republicans and Democrats who've pushed to have such language included in health care reform should be thanked, and commended for their bi-partisan efforts to craft a bill that will include help for Americans facing those difficult decisions that modern technology has offered us.
Because we all get old. Hopefully we'll all have a death panel like the one proposed by Sen. Isakson to help us make decisions when we do.