Monday, November 01, 2010

Death Panels?

Remember how so many people were afraid of death panels in the Health Care Reform bill? We may have them already.

I just heard this story.

My good friend escorted her older neighbor to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing after picking up a cold on the plane back from Europe. In the emergency room, the doctor determined that the older woman had pneumonia and had to be admitted to the hospital.

My friend was dismayed, shocked and alarmed when a social worker appeared and started to take over. The social worker produced all these forms to fill out, including asking if the sick woman had a living will and if she wanted to be cremated or buried! She was asked all sorts of other difficult near-end-of-life questions. My friend told the social worker to wait until the woman's son arrived -- that these were questions to be discussed with family. My friend's neighbor's first language was Italian and she was very sick, not able to breathe well and was duly scared of all the sudden medical and social worker attention. She really couldn't handle all that was being thrown at her.

To me this just shows how far we have come into the world of impersonal, uncaring, bureaucratic medicine. There was definitely no bedside manner. It just shows why we all need advocates to help us -- family, friends, neighbors or clergy. Occasionally, we get a family doctor who cares about us (not our money) and can help. But it seems they are few and far between.

Who is going to stand up for us and help us when we're sick and old? It's not the medical establishment.

This is a topic we all need to think about and discuss.

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