It's pure myth: There's no 'death panel' in health care legislation
The "death panel" rumor about health care reform lives stubbornly on in spite of debunking from sources ranging from AARP to a Republican senator who pushed for Medicare coverage of end-of-life counseling.
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Since: Dec 05
#1 Aug 19, 2009
Nothing being debated in Washington would give the government such authority. Critics have twisted a provision in a House bill that would direct Medicare to pay for counseling sessions about end-of-life care, living wills, hospices and the like if a patient wants such consultations with a doctor.
The bill would prohibit coverage of counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option. End-of-life counseling sessions are a voluntary benefit, strictly between doctor and patient, and it is "nuts" to think death panels are looming or euthanasia is part of the equation.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds offering end-of-life counseling aids last days. Offering such care to dying cancer patients improves their mood and quality of life. It was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
A House proposal allows Medicare to pay doctors to chat with patients, if they desire it, about living wills, hospice and appointing a trusted person to make decisions when the patient is incapacitated.
In the new study, trained nurses did the end-of-life counseling, mostly by phone, with patients and family caregivers using a model based on national guidelines. All the patients in the study had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Half were assigned to receive usual care. The other half received usual care plus counseling about managing symptoms, communicating with health care providers and finding hospice care.
Patients and their caregivers also could attend monthly 90-minute group meetings with a doctor and a nurse to ask questions and discuss problems in what's called a "shared medical appointment." Patients who got the counseling scored higher on quality of life and mood measures than patients who did not.
Accoring to one of the researchers, patients getting such counseling often thank the nurses helping them. They seem to feel a whole lot better knowing there's someone who's looking at the rest of them and not just the tumor.
In both groups, hospital stays were rare: six to seven days on average during the patients' last year of life. It is patients and families in their own living rooms who are dealing with end-of-life care. They're not in the hospital,they're at home.
This is about helping people live with the diagnosis the doctor has given. This study reflects on what kind of support people deserve when they're dying.
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