What with all the hysteria, hyperbole and hissy fits about "death panels," you would have thought that President Obama was imposing the end of life as we know it in these United States.
He wasn't. Rather, as part of his vision for health care reform, Mr. Obama proposed paying doctors to include end-of-life planning discussions with patients, especially seniors and the critically ill.
It was a pragmatic proposal to save families emotional distress, give patients more control over their treatment and curtail costs -- end-of-life medical care is among the most expensive. However, the hue and cry from willfully misinformed opponents led to the plan being dropped from healthcare legislation.
But it was a good idea then, and a good idea now, and we commend Mr. Obama for reintroducing the policy as a new Medicare regulation. As of today, the government will pay physicians who advise patients about their options for end-of-life care. These may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-prolonging treatment. Under the new rule, Medicare will cover ``voluntary advance care planning,'' as part of the annual doctor's visit.
This does not mean ``pulling the plug on grandma,'' as the president sought to assure Americans during the healthcare debate -- nor should it ever mean that. Some opponents expressed legitimate fears that the proposal was an excuse to withhold treatment from the severely ill or disabled.
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