Monday, October 29, 2012


Healthcare is too expensive for a number of reasons. The leading one, by far, is that we overuse it.

Too many Americans behave in ways they know will eventually lead to illness (overeating, sedentary lifestyle, unmanaged stress, etc.), and then expect doctors to repair them. They demand the miracles they learned about in ads, often disguised as news—high-tech products and procedures pushed for their profit potential.

A parallel overuse occurs at the end of life. It’s estimated that a third of Medicare patients’ expenses occur during their final year. Attempts to stave off death, though, frequently amount to the prolongation of suffering. Most of us, I think, are aware of that fact now, yet when the event occurs, we tend to submit to futile intervention anyway. Our little inside-the-head voice says, “If you really love Dad, you’ll try to keep him alive.”

One task in authentic healthcare reform, then, is to develop a sense of peace with death. That’s not easy when many Americans fly into hysteria when the D word arises. An early version of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") that recommended end-of-life conversations between families and docs was widely misinterpreted as “death panels” intent on pulling Dad’s plug. 

Tomorrow our local community will host its second annual public forum on healthcare reform. We’ll show a film comparing Canada’s healthcare system with ours, followed by a panel Q&A. Hopefully death-and-dying and other central issues will arise and be openly discussed. Taking such subjects out of the closet is the only way to illuminate them in order to address them intelligently.

1 comment:

  1. I think if medical schools and even law schools included this discussion in their curriculum it would help with this decision.

    My mother courageously knew when to say "enough."