Having a living will or advance directive, which tells your family and medical providers what you do and do not want when you reach the end of your life and are unable to make your own decisions, is a smart thing to do. None of us wants to be Terry Schiavo, having courts and even Congress butting in telling us whether we get to live or die. Having a living will is the best insurance there is to make sure that your wishes are known and carried out.
So when members of Congress negotiating on health care reform added a provision that would ensure that people who want living wills would have help writing them out and making sure they were legal, they thought they were doing a good thing, GIVING the patient autonomy, not taking it away.
That was until the opponents of health care reform got ahold of it. I got an email last week from a woman who said her sister has COPD and is on oxygen, and she had been told that, if health care reform passed, the government would come and take her oxygen away and let her die. This is similar to the story that is being reported in the press, that people think the government is going to personally visit everybody at the end of life and talk them into dying because it costs less.
As best I (and anybody else who's written or talked about this) can tell, this all comes from the provision reinforcing the right to a living will. A provision that was intended to GIVE autonomy has been reinterpreted as if it would TAKE autonomy. Nonsense!
Think about it, really. Is there any indication from anything you've read or heard that President Obama is in favor of euthanasia for senior citizens? He talks lovingly about how his mother died too young, and he left the campaign trail to visit with his grandmother as she was dying. He's compassionate, he cares about family -- there's absolutely nothing I have ever heard or read about him that would allow me to believe that he would support killing old people because they're too expensive.
And even if he wanted to do it, do you really think a majority of Congress -- Democrat or Republican -- would be able to pass such a law, and you would only hear about it by rumor? Think about it. If Congress proposed legislation to kill us all off when we reach age 75, it would be the lead story on the nightly news. There would be hysterics. And it would be challenged in court, probably successfully. We don't legalize suicide; what on earth would lead someone to believe that we would legalize euthanasia?
It's rumor, and you and I both know who started it -- the people who don't want health care reform to succeed. And you're going to hear a lot more about it before this is over.
Rather than sitting down and having a rational debate -- because really, there aren't too many people out there saying we don't need some sort of reform of our very broken system -- they are telling lies. They are organizing protests. They are behaving like children, disrupting events around the country where people are trying to have real conversation about the merits of health care reform and other issues that are on our minds, like the economy. They are doing it to kill reform -- period.
Is there a place in our society for civil disobedience? Yes -- after all attempts at talk are exhausted and have failed. But we don't even have a final plan yet. If there are opponents out there who really don't want any kind of reform at all, let them speak.
But stop the lies. Stop the disruption. Let us have our social conversation about health care. That's the best chance we have to get it right. Jennifer