The Obama administration is planning to initiate a program to “encourage” doctors to engage patients in end of life planning through regulation, even though the provision was rejected in the final draft of the health care reform law.
According to the New York Times:
“The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover ‘voluntary advance care planning,’ to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.
“Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an ‘advance directive,’ stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.
“While the new law does not mention advance care planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress.”
There is, technically, nothing wrong with doctors and patients discussing options to be followed when terminal illness reaches its climax. There is, however, something positively creepy that smacks of a conflict of interest when a government that proposes to take over the operation and financing of health care undertakes to encourage such a process.
When the idea of encouraging “end of life” planning first came up during the health care reform debate, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin suggested that this would lead down a slippery slope to a day when government-run “Death Panels” would decide who would live and die based on cost criteria and bureaucratic whims about “quality of life.”
Even though Palin was denounced by supporters of health care reform at the time, Death Panels do exist in countries that have national health care. In Great Britain, the Death Panel is called, in an Orwellian fashion, “National Institute for Clinical Excellence” or “NICE.” NICE decides what drugs and medical procedures will be available for British patients under the National Health Service system based on cost and not, generally, whether such will treat diseases effectively.
The New York Sun opined that Palin, considered a rube by many on the left, is once again correct about the Obama administration’s desire to seize control of life and death decisions from doctors and patients.
“The question that that we find ourselves thinking about is how was Mrs. Palin able to see this issue when others weren’t. Is she just smarter than the editors and the Congress? Or does she just have more life experience? Is it that her religion gives her a framework for learning all this stuff? Or is it that her sensitivity was heightened by making of her own decision to bring Trig into the world? Or is it something about the Alaskan spirit?”
The Obama administration seems to realize the explosive nature of what it is setting out to do. Supporters of Obamacare are urging quiet about the new regulation for fear that public anxiety about government health care will once again be stoked.
But, coupled with the reversal of the FDA on approval of Avastin, a life-extending cancer drug, solely on cost, it seems that evidence is mounting that regardless of congressional or public disapproval, the Obama administration is going hell bent for leather into the brave new world in which our lives are in the hands of government bureaucrats. What can go wrong?
Sources: Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir, Rober Pear, New York Times, December 25th, 2010
Great Britain’s Very Own ‘Death Panel’, Ethel C. Fenig, American Thinker, November 20th, 2010
Sarah Palin, Scoop Artist, New York Sun, December 26th, 2010
FDA Revokes Approval of Avastin, Life-Extending Cancer Drug, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, December 22nd, 2010