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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 14, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Health-care reform: the “death-squad” debate continues

End of life — diversions, deceptions, lies

Has our political system become a game show? Are our congressmen and women and our senators no longer seeking the best possible outcomes for their constituents? Has it become a winner-takes-all “reality” TV show? What the heck has happened to the American system of government?

The recent debate on the health-care bills has degenerated to diversions, deception and downright lies. Yet the American people fall for this stuff. What!?

As a retired primary-care doctor, I know the heartbreak that comes from a patient not putting down in writing how they want to be cared for. “End-of-life” care decisions are extremely personal. In the past, Medicare and insurance would not pay for a visit for a patient to see me to discuss these matters.

Thus, I have ordered CPR on several people only to have them curse me when they recovered, some with strokes and in horrific condition. One even told me he would have “NO CPR” tattooed on his chest to prevent future attempts!

I had another patient who told me verbally not to extend his life beyond his 90+ years, but without it in writing, he suffered for many days while his distant family relatives argued about his care — being distant relatives, they felt guilty and couldn’t “let go” easily. He had no chance of a meaningful recovery after a heart attack followed by a stroke and then kidney failure. He died in a cruel and unnecessarily prolonged manner.

The current health-care bill says simply that it will pay for you to see a doctor to discuss your care options. You decide what those are.

No one else needs to be involved in the decision, and your doctor is not going to “force” you into anything. He/she certainly is not going to institute euthanasia. Good grief!

Some people want absolutely everything done to keep them alive no matter what, even if in poor health to begin with and with the odds stacked against a good outcome. If that describes you, fine! Let your doctor know in writing. There are lots of standardized forms you can use to designate your wishes: surgery or not, tube feeding or not, use of a ventilator to breathe for you or not, CPR or not It is up to you, not some “death committee.” Sheesh. How some people can spread such nonsense is beyond me.

That said, let your doctor know your wishes, put a copy where medics will find it if 911 is called and you cannot speak for yourself and let your family know (give them a copy). Make lots of copies, and make new copies whenever you change your mind.

For goodness sake, stop the “game show” theatrics. Read the darn bill details. And debate the real issues.

— Jeff Wedgwood M.D.(retired), Issaquah

The whole enchilada

I fear Democrats will cave to the intense pressure from opponents of health-care reform. But here’s a better idea. Since those who demonize health care for all will scream and shout about even the weakest plan, political leaders should just go for the whole enchilada — universal, single-payer health coverage. This will do the most for those most in need.

Don’t maneuver and compromise until we’re left with something that helps no one. Democrats are in the majority. If they have a spine and really want to move forward on health care, they should just do it!

— Helen Gilbert, Seattle

Granny’s going to be OK

Nobody wants to euthanize granny.

Nobody wants to take away your health-care plan if you like it.

Nobody wants you to wait in lines, and nobody wants you to wear a green Mao suit and wave a little red book.

Big Pharma and the health-insurance companies (with huge profits and huge salaries for top-level execs) want to derail health-care reform. They prefer keeping all profit, and don’t really care that 50 million people lack health insurance.

Business owners must struggle to provide employee health-care coverage. Covered employees are only one step away from losing their jobs and health insurance, and going bankrupt, as so many have, from trying to pay medical expenses. Oh, try to obtain insurance with a “pre-existing” condition and you are up a creek.

There is tremendous waste and bureaucracy in the current health-care system, and insurance employees often have more say about your treatment than your doctor.

Skyrocketing premiums may rise to 50 percent of personal income if nothing is done, and the cost of treating the uninsured at emergency rooms is already contained in the premiums of the insured.

The most civilized nations in the world have health care for all. Let’s join them.

— Bambi Lin Litchman, Tacoma

Current system unstable

There are so many complexities facing health-care reform, and misinformation certainly rings louder than boring facts. But a message that seems to be ringing true even from President Obama really needs to be changed.

We’re hearing on both sides that most people are happy with what they have, and therefore can keep it. What people have is very unstable. Insurance premiums in the state of Washington have risen more than 100 percent since 2000. Keeping one’s insurance is dependent on many factors out of our control. And coverage for each of us is also subject to change due to co-pays, providers and premiums. Many people are forced to turn to high deductibles, forcing them to forgo care.

The Medicare Advantage plan needs light shed on it. It was designed to defund Medicare by those who object to entitlements. Obama’s claim on the big savings to Medicare is based on readjusting the Medicare Advantage. It needs to be tackled in a big way.

Why should my Medicare premiums go to insurance companies when I’m opposed to that option and I choose to select all my physicians, rather than let the insurer control that? Why do people say they want to be in control and not the government when they willingly turn their money over to the insurers? This is all a big hoax?

— Sheila Hoff, Redmond

Not a member of the “death squad”

Last week, I signed a do-not-resuscitate order for my mom. This does not mean that I am part of President Obama’s death squad. This does not mean that I hate mom. Just the opposite. I love my mother and am following her wishes.

Mom, always the planner, created a health-care directive. She listed her end-of-life choices so that they would be clear to me, to my four brothers, and to her doctor.

Is my mother dying? I don’t know. She’s had a severe stroke. I am doing everything in my power to get her back home with dad. But if mom’s health continues to fail, we will not keep her alive on a ventilator. These were her wishes when her mind was whole.

Someone in Congress has proposed that end-of-life discussions with a doctor be funded by Medicare. Seniors would have the option, totally at their discretion, of writing their wishes down for their families.

This would let families know exactly what their loved ones wanted them to do should the worst happen.

It sickens me that Sarah Palin and other heartless politicians are attacking a new Medicare benefit that would help so many families.

— Lois Brandt, Issaquah

Comments | More in Death with Dignity Act, Reform

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