Remember Obama’s Death Panels? No, they didn’t exist. But like ‘cooties,’ the scared and the immature just kept repeating that they were waiting to snatch us up. What the Healthcare Reform Bill wanted to institute was the opportunity – nay, the expectation – for families to have regular consultations with their doctors about end-of-life/palliative care that would per force be covered by insurance.
Healthcare Reform became law in the early days of 2010, and we have been litigating it ever since – and no one has found any mention of a death panel. But even requiring insurance companies to pay doctors for these end-of-life consultations has proven to be a political hot potato – even though evidence of their efficacy is mounting.
A report from a group of oncologists from Sweden is the latest study to show the benefits of having a frank discussion about what treatments are working, what are not working, and what options/opportunities the patient has. The abstract of the report, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, can be found here (a subscription to the Journal is required to read the full report).
Fortunately, Paula Span of The New York Times discusses the full report and talks with Dr. Gunilla Lundquist, a palliative care specialist at Umea University and lead author of the study. One of the hard truths of the report is that about 70% of people who have that tough conversation about their terminal conditions die at home and among loved ones, in contrast to under 40% who do not have that conversation yet do not die in a hospital.
Paula Span also steps into the cultural and political difficulties of getting such a study done in the US, or even discussing the Swedish report. Instead, we’ll invoke the Bogie Panel to ensure our freedom from everything, except fear.