To the editor:
As a physician I have talked with people about how they want to be treated at the end of their lives. If they knew they were dying, how much would they want done? Would they want to be at home or at a hospital or in a nursing or hospice facility? How much chemotherapy, resuscitation, diagnostic tests, feeding tubes, etc., would they want? At some point would they just want to be kept from suffering?
I also want to be able to have this sort of conversation for myself. I want eventually to be allowed to die with dignity and peace and without a great deal of medical intervention intended just to forestall death for a few more days or weeks. Some of these things need to be decided before the fact; otherwise medical personnel may be required to give us a lot more “treatment” than we might want.
This sort of discussion is what is included in the current House version of health insurance reform, and it is a far cry from the notion of “death panels” that ex-Gov. Palin and others are screeching about in a cynical and manipulative way. I look forward to the day when we the people no longer tolerate extremist politics and instead demand the kind of rational debate a true democracy requires. We can’t afford to let health care reform be derailed by this sort of divisive foolishness.