Provision in health care bill causing seniors concern

By Philippe Djegal - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Former Governor Sarah Palin calls them "death panels" and, because of the uproar the end of life counseling provision caused, it was not included in the health care bills passed in Senate committees. But, the provision is back in the House version - a major cause for concern for some East Texas seniors.

"My knees are gone completely," said Charlene Pearce. "My hips are gone completely. My neck is in very bad condition."

The list for 83-year-old Pearce goes on and on and on.

"I have a lot of good memories that I'm thankful to God that I do have my memory, but that's really about all I have left," said Pearce.

She understands that the end may be near. For that reason, she has already decided that, if she suddenly becomes sick, and a decision needs to made as to whether or not to pull the plug, she says let her go.

"The government can put their money to a lot better use than extending the life of us old people that will have no quality of life whatsoever," said Pearce.

"I do have mine written out so that my boys do understand what I want to take place," said Doris Parker.

Parker, 85, says living wills and end of life counseling should be a family decision, not a government decision.

"I feel like that I am very strong enough to think for myself," said Parker.

But, not everyone is so lucky. That's why the health care legislation in the House includes a provision allowing Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help seniors make difficult decisions that families often face when older Americans are near death. Opponents think these counseling sessions will discourage seniors from seeking treatment for terminal illness; essentially rationing care.

"I don't think that it's wise to wait until an emergency situation to make such a decision," said Chiagozie Nwasuruba, a hospitalist.

Nwasuruba agrees with the government, pointing out that the provision is strictly voluntary.

"What the doctor will do is give you options," said Nwasuruba. "He is not there to make decisions for you."

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