“Death Panels” Are a Load of Rubbish

Last year during all the hysteria about healthcare reform, all we heard was  that the government wanted to institute “death panels” to kill granny. This arose over provisions for Medicare to offer optional end-of-life counseling with doctors. Idiots like Limbaugh and Beck spread lies that this was merely an attempt by the government to ration healthcare and kill Medicare patients.  Well today all this rubbish was put to rest. Today, the NY Times reported the results of the first clinical trial to determine whether palliative care (comfort care) resulted in better outcomes than aggressive care for patients with terminal advanced lung cancer.

These results are astonishing and should certainly put to rest the notion of “death panels”. Patients treated with palliative care not only are happier, more mobile and in less pain as the end neared, but they also lived nearly three months longer!!

More than 80 percent of people who die in the United States have a long, progressive illness such as cancer, heart failure or Alzheimer’s disease. Surveys have shown that more than 80% of us do not want to be in pain or in the hospital in our final days. However, our wishes are often ignored because we haven’t taken the necessary steps to ensure that our wishes are followed. We don’t talk about death and dying with our loved ones, nor do we draw up advanced directives for our wishes to be followed. Instead, we wait until there’s a medical crisis and often it’s too late because the “train has now left the station”. Don’t expect doctors to initiate such a conversation because they’re taught to fight death with every last ditch effort known to medicine. What then happens is we get sicker as we die because the treatment becomes a bigger burden than the disease.

So, take control of your end of life care and have that conversation about how you want to live your final days.


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