Monday, January 3, 2011

Advance Directives Are a Far Cry from Death Panels

It sets my teeth on edge to think that Sarah Palin's inept sound byte of "death panels" or "death squads" is being used by the media in reports about the new Medicare ruling that went into effect January 1, 2011. The new ruling allows health care providers to discuss with their patients advance directives once a year, with the yearly physical and be paid through Medicare to do so.

I've read accounts and comments that show people are likening this patient/provider discussion as if the topic were euthanasia. Folks don't seem to understand that advance directives don't give power to health care providers--they give power to the individual to make their wishes known ahead of time before a health care crisis or end-of-life situation. Advance directives empower the individual; they empower freedom of choice for the patient before there may come a situation where the patient has no voice.

The new ruling doesn't mandate that anyone has to complete any advance directives if they don't want to. It's about giving information to people from a reliable source. The yearly physical is merely the device through which the discussion can happen. If you're not interested, don't do anything as far as an advance directive.

In the absence of any advance directives, medical personnel will provide any and all care to keep your body alive, including respirators, feeding tubes and more. If this is the type of care you would want, then you don't need an advance directive at all.

Some people have strong feelings about being hooked up to medical devices to sustain their lives when in situations such as a permanent, vegetative coma. Other people make advance directives to remove the burden of health care decisions from their loved ones. Some folks may want feeding tubes but no ventilator. Advance directives are for these situations and many more.

If everyone would just calm down and find the facts before awfulizing a situation, there would be less fear-mongering and confusion--it's common sense.

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