To the Editor:
No one is in favor of forced euthanasia. If we look around at our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens, even if we disagree with them on many issues, we can recognize that. Nor are we in favor of denying treatment to elderly people if the treatment will heal them or extend their lives with some quality. (Elderly people have access to Medicare, while, ironically, many younger uninsured people without means to pay are being denied care by doctors or hospitals.) However, many of us would not want to be kept alive, if we were on a ventilator and unconscious, with no hope of recovery.
When our elderly parents are in dire, life-threatening situations, it is a time of crisis; we may be pulled to continue fairly pointless treatment because we don't want to let go, or we fear being criticized for giving up too soon. If our parents have established some clear directions as to how much treatment they want, or don't want, it is a great kindness to the family, to prevent many arguments and extra anguish wondering what the parent would have wanted. Consulting with a doctor while one is still in good health is very useful because there are a variety of possible situations that one might not have considered; this can make one's living will much more specific and helpful.
There are no "death panels" proposed in any of the health care reform bills in Congress. What is in one of the bills is to reimburse a doctor for time spent when people want to consult about the treatment they want at the end of life. This is an excellent, humane provision that facilitates people making more decisions about their own end-of-life care.
We are in a fearful time of economic turmoil, job losses, and foreclosures, which have only increased the number of people without adequate health insurance. Let us not get carried away by our fear, and recognize that people throughout the land share a common humanity and desire for a decent living for themselves and their neighbors. These Congressional health care reform bills are about helping us to avoid economic catastrophe from a family health crisis, so that we can be a stabilizing part of our communities and society as we work ourselves out of this economic crisis.