Previous posts in this discussion:
Postre: US Medicine: A Family Story (Massoud Malek, US; ex-Iran) (John Eipper, USA, 03/27/10 5:29 am)
Massoud Malek writes: In March 2005, my mother was taken to a hospital; two months later, the family was asked to come for a meeting. The hospital sent an administrator, an Iranian doctor who could sympathize with us, and a nurse who took care of my mother and was always cheerful. They asked us if they could disconnect the breathing tube. The nurse told us that she watched patients dying this way; it usually takes less than 15 seconds. I refused, telling them that when I was a few months old, I became very sick, a family member suggested that my mother should let me die. Instead she took care of a baby who couldn't talk and defend himself, and now you are asking me to kill my mom who can't speak for herself? I understand that she is a burden to your hospital, but one second of her life is worth to me more than million years of her death. Before her death in August, we had two other meetings with the hospital staff. The first of these meetings was about the cost of treating her. They asked us if we are willing to pay the bill, if not they had no choice but to send her to a nursing home; it would cost us much less. I told them that I want them to explain this to someone from the Channel 5 TV (CBS). They said OK, we keep her one more month. The final meeting was about the paperwork for the medicare, they told us her Medicare runs out in 25 days, so we have to come up with a new solution; again they said, "the best solution is to disconnect the tube." They day before she died, I told her a joke and she smiled. She asked my sister to cut her nails. When I came home (one hour drive to Hayward, California), I got a call from the hospital, they told me that your mom is going to die in a few hours. I guess people who are outraged by the passage of the Health Care Bill never were asked to kill their mothers. JE comments: A very sad story, which reminds us of the "Death Panel" argument typically brought up by the opposite camp, i.e., those who condemn the US Health Care Bill. As Massoud Malek's experience shows, informal "Death Panels" already exist, making life-and-death recommendations based on cost. I don't think anything will change under the new laws, although individual insurance companies supposedly will be prohibited from denying coverage to the chronically ill. I haven't read the Bill, and I'm sure very few have. But does it contain specific guidelines for end-of-life care?