Three years ago, my mother died after a long and painful illness. During her last months she was only partially conscious, and in her brief intervals of awareness was often distraught. At several points my father, sister, and I met with doctors to figure out how to ease her obvious suffering with pain medications, and how we could get her into a hospice facility. We could afford the counseling, but millions of other families cannot -- which is why one of the useful heath care reforms now moving through Congress authorizes Medicare to reimburse doctors for such voluntary end-of-life consultations. The American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization support the provision.
But in a cruel contortion, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin calls these consultations "death panels," and in a Facebook posting late Wednesday night charges that they'll force the elderly to accept minimal end-of-life care in order to reduce health care costs: "It's misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients," and added, "It's all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing."
More after the jump.