KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debate Continues Around End-Of-Life Care

Controversy and misinformation about end-of-life care take center stage in the debate on health care reform.

The Oregonian reports: "In town hall meetings, Internet postings and other forums, some opponents of health care reform have seized on a provision written by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer to illustrate what they say is the sinister nature of the health care plans in Congress. The provision in the 1,200-page House bill allows Medicare to pay for end-of-life consultations for seniors. It has bipartisan support and has been praised by doctors, patients, and professional groups, from AARP to the American College of Physicians, to the Consumers Union. But the more extreme critics say it will allow government to euthanize the elderly."

The Oregonian reports: "The aim of Blumenauer's bill is to give seniors a chance to clarify for doctors and family members how much care they want in an incapacitating emergency ... Blumenauer's amendment, which has bipartisan support, adds a Medicare benefit to the House health care bill that would pay doctors to talk with seniors about their preferences for life-sustaining treatment. The discussion would be voluntary and might include an explanation of advance directives, living wills, hospice and the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy" (Graves and Pope, 8/9).

Fox News: "A Harvard study released earlier this year directly linked end-of-life counseling with lower health care costs and better quality of life for patients with advanced cancers. Researchers, who interviewed 603 advanced-cancer patients about whether they had end-of-life conversations with their physicians, found that patients who did had an estimated average of $1,876 in health care expenses during their final week of life, compared with $2,917 for those who didn't. Patients also associated higher costs with a worse quality of death during their final week and typically did not live longer if they received intensive care" (8/8). 

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