Sunday, August 23, 2009

Duty Calls

More than twenty five years ago former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm stepped into a mess when he wrote a piece for Time magazine discussing a touchy subject; when should senior, ailing citizens make a responsible decision to walk out onto the ice floe and spend the night waiting for the wolves.

I met Dick Lamm and talked a bit to him, one-on-one. We didn't talk about the "duty to die" comment that got him into hot water, but the things we did have a chance to briefly discuss showed him to be a reasonable, intelligent and thoughtful man. He simply got sound-bited into being a heartless monster.

His thesis was a rational and objective discussion of end-of-life decision making. He acknowledged that medical technology, even then, allowed machines to pump pseudo-life through our protoplasm for a very long time and at very great expense. His rhetorical question was simply: should we do that just because we can? He was suggesting that we recognize our mortality, nothing more or less than that. At some point it would be wise, if not emotionally satisfying, to accept that we should shuffle off this mortal coil. He was arguing against the long held precept of not going quietly into that good night.

As a philosophical discussion, it is worthwhile, but as public policy it is intolerable.

Now we've been having the "death panel" debate. The argument has elevated beyond an individual decision to a counseling period with a government official. It has included consideration of qualities of extended life and amazingly enough, cost/benefit analysis of expenditure on a medical procedure based on age of the patient.

It would be hard to argue that the "death panel" is anything but inevitable under a single-payer, government-run healthcare system. It will happen.

What is damning this week is the disclosure that the VA has been implementing a very similar program for several years now. That evil old President Bush suspended the use of the counseling manual several years ago, but apparently the Messiah's search for empirical evidence to support the counseling practice caused him to re-instate it.

Now Sen. Arlen Spector, enfeebled politically by his liberalism and party switching, is seeking redemption by demanding investigation of the VA policy:

What Are They Doing to Our Wounded Warriors?

I listened on talk radio on Friday to a sampling of the scenario questions from the counseling pamphlet. They were chilling. If someone were facing many of those possiblities, it could be argued that the booklet would be conducive to clinical depression.

But, this is really scary:

She said it was one of many options for injured veterans, calling it "simply a tool."

"This ultimately is about the ... health care for veterans," Duckworth said.

Though Duckworth said the document has not been fully vetted, an official directive from July tells VA health practitioners to refer veterans to the document. Duckworth questioned whether that directive had been authorized at the highest levels.

That is disabled veteran Tammy Duckworth. She is the Asst. Secretary for Veteran's Affairs. Her sole qualification for the job is that she is a disabled woman combat veteran. No medical experience. No executive experience. No hospital administration or counseling experience.

And when she questions "whether that directive has been authorized at the highest levels" you wonder if she has understood that her office is "at the highest levels."

Will someone tell her who she is?


Anonymous said...

There is a link in the article to a PDF of the guide.

I skimmed through it.

The idea of handing such a document to a wounded soldier--to any ill person--is beyond comprehension. Words such as ghastly, abominable, wicked come to mind. After taking a deep breath, I come up with words like atheist, Left, materialistic, corporate, de-humanized....

People need to speak up.

Keeping posting, Ed.

Buzz Barron said...

I just don't think many of us need "death counseling". I've already done that and certainly don't need any help from the government...all I can say is when they give me the death book I hope I have lots of bullets...

This is BS, and I agree, good for discussion but when it gets personal it's another matter.