January 11, 2011 | Posted By Sheila Otto, MA, BSN

The recent decision of the Obama strategists to reverse their inclusion of reimbursement for  the end of life discussions was alarming. I have never understood the “death panel” label  when referencing discussions between physicians and patients, about their values and choices as their lives progress toward that final chapter. What seems to have escaped the public  debate, is that the patient can indeed direct that aggressive care be delivered. Questions about what interventions to use in case of breathing or heart problems for example, have multiple choice answers. The typical living will is set up to allow patients to opt for comfort care in dire circumstances because they were developed to allay the fears of patients who had seen family members and friends undergo painful and prolonged dying, and they didn’t want to have that happen to them.  The Obama team is aware of the political capital it would cost to fight this fight and have chosen to spend it elsewhere…so be it. Our efforts to educate the public should  then be reinvigorated so that patients can once again take the lead and direct their own health care choices.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.