Friday, August 14, 2009

And in the end ...

I must admit I'm getting very frustrated with all the misinformation about health care reform going on right now. At the risk of being called a "socialist," I have always believed that there are certain things that should be treated as rights and not privileges. We seem to understand that when it comes to offering free public education to all young people from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Basic foundational education is not a privilege, it's a right and a literate populace is one of the preconditions to having a stable democracy.

Another thing I think is a right is basic health care for all people. There's a certain self-preservation logic to this. There are two major risks to not offering universal health care. The first is that those who do not have coverage will become an economic burden because they delay treatment of their illnesses and, when they finally do, they will use the most expensive means of procuring treatment (like showing up in the ER of the local hospital). The other major risk is a public health threat because those without access to health care can be infected with a communicable disease that can spread to the general population (think tuberculosis for one!).

The misinformation about end of life planning really galls me! These same senators who stuck their noses into the Terri Schiavo case back in 2005, now think the government should not be involved in end of life decisions. Give me a break! If Terri Schiavo had filled out an advanced directive, that whole legal battle would have never played out. You'd think our representatives would understand that reimbursing people for having a consult with their doctor on the options for end of life care would be a priority after that debacle. How sad that we have such sort memories!

As a Visitation Minister, I visit a lot of people at the end of their lives. I have had to have heart to heart talks with people about enrolling in hospice care and why they need to make the call rather than just sit in denial and wait for their adult children to do it for them. I have stacks of Five Wishes forms available for people to fill out and make their own personal beliefs and wishes known to their families. But in the end, I am not a doctor and cannot have the conversation about outcomes with respect to aggressive treatments at the end of life.

We are a death denying culture and any mention of death is used as the ultimate political weapon to strike fear into the hearts of people about any kind of health care reform. I pray that our people will see this fearmongering for what it is. I also pray for people to get real and know that, in the words of Jim Morrison, "No one here gets out alive."


Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this item from Ed Brayton's blog; apparently the end-of-life counseling provision in the health care bill was quite similar to one proposed earlier by a Republican senator.

Reverend Mom said...

Ironic isn't it? This all became even more real about 2 weeks ago when I had to counsel a member of my church about end of life care and recommend he contact hospice. Fortunately, he took my counsel to heart and 48 hours after I met with him, he made the call. He died two days ago in the comfort of inpatient hospice care with his family around him.

I'm not a doctor, but I saw his decline and the assisted living facility helped him get into hospice. A friend of mine got stonewalled on her mother's admission to the same hospice because the hospice didn't think her mom was "bad enough" to come. Had my friend received a doctor's consult, there might have been a better and less stressful outcome for everyone involved.