Thursday, September 24, 2009

A look at the way we die

I thought much of the health care reform debate had fallen off the radar until I came across this Tweet from @mike_gamble: "Extraordinary Article! - The Way We Die Now."

I clicked The New York Times link and immediately writer Timothy Egan had me hooked. He found a perfect story to share how we die in this current system. An 88-year-old woman, the mother of a governor and physician, had to make a choice. Die at the hospital or die at home?

She chose her home and her family over the hospital complex. Medicare didn't help with this choice. Her son noted that while Medicare would pay for the tests and treatments in the hospital it wouldn't pay for the $18 an hour non-hospice worker to help his mother during her last four months of life.

Egan's piece also takes an interesting look at an issue that people don't want to talk about. He wrote: "More sensible voices have since joined the debate, asking how we reform a system that lavishes most of its benefits on a cure for the 'disease' of aging."

Another nugget from Egan's piece: About $67 billion — nearly a third of the money spent by Medicare — goes to patients in the last two years of life. The need to spend less money at the end of life “is the elephant in the room,” Evan Thomas wrote in “The Case for Killing Granny,” the cover story in last week’s Newsweek. “Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it.”

This summer, the debate became supercharged with rhetoric as the threat of "death panels" was tossed around like a tennis ball. From my personal experience as a caregiver, I have read many stories about government, hospital and insurance intervention on choices that should be left up to the individual. Those stories were from more than four years ago. So, this issue isn't new.

I'm all about living, but we as a nation really need to take a look at how we die.


  1. You may enjoy the book, "How great Beings Die"
    Get your oxygen first is a wonderful axiom. Thanks for the reminder.:)

  2. Gloria, Thanks for the recommendation. I'll take a look.


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