The "death panel" has killed something, all right: a benefit that
families need and want, namely the right to sit down with their
family doctor to discuss wrenching issues of living wills, hospice care
and end-of-life care for
themselves and their loved ones. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who a
couple of days ago was pushing the malicious "death panel" lie about health reform, today said the disputed language is being removed (CQ.com subscription barrier) from the chief Senate health reform bill.
benefit said doctors could be paid for their time when families sought
help with hard end-of-life issues, whenever they wanted to discuss it.
It probably had to go, once it turned into a flash point after the Tea
Baggers grabbed Sarah Palin’s "death panel" phrase and ran with it. But
for Grassley, the chief Republican on the Senate Finance Comittee, to
spread the "death panel" malice and then today to soberly express
regret that his committee’s bill would omit the counseling benefit is
politics at its scummiest.
From the CQ.com story:
Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley
said Thursday that the Senate Finance Committee dropped consideration
of end-of-life provisions similar to those that have prompted claims by
opponents that the House health overhaul bill authorizes so-called
Grassley, one of the six bipartisan negotiators who have been
engaged in talks for weeks on the content of the Finance bill, said in
a statement the panel has been trying to avoid “unintended
consequences” by working methodically through the consequences of
“We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely
because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented
incorrectly,” Grassley said in a statement. “Maybe others can defend a
bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to
interpretation but I can’t.”
But who was doing the misinterpreting? Here’s what Grassley said yesterday:
“There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for
end-of-life. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear.
You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have
counseling 20 years before you’re going to die. You ought to plan these
things out. And I don’t have any problem with things like living wills.
But they ought to be done within the family.”
Hard to know where to start on what’s wrong with statement, but here’s a try:
"You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life…" Reality: You could get the counseling about end of life issues, such as a living will and the right to hospice care, whenever you wanted it, and only if you wanted it. Unfortunately, a lot of us leave it until rather late, and it should be available then, too.
"You ought to have
counseling 20 years before you’re going to die."
The counseling would have been available whenever it was requested. The
big question, even for Mr. Grassley, is knowing when your death is 20
"[T]hings like living wills… ought to be done within the family."
A living will that will stick has to be more than a note to self or a
discussion with your spouse. It needs a certain form and language to be
legally bulletproof. I guess Mr. Grassley will be happy to pay for you
to hire a lawyer. And maybe they can just pick a hospice out of the
For those without a family, or without a family that loves
them, tough luck. You’re on your own. I’m sure your HMO will make all the right decisions for you.