Death Panels? No, But It's Time for Life Panels

Essayist: We have to find a way to help people end lives with dignity
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2013 1:13 PM CST

(Newser) – Watching his elderly mother spend three miserable years in a hospital bed in need of 24/7 care before her death prompts Bob Goldman to float an idea today in the New York Times: "life panels." A twist on the political poison of "death panels," the idea would be that individuals convene such a panel while still lucid and healthy to clearly express their end-of-life wishes. Goldman suggests it might include a doctor, a medical ethicist, and a therapist, along with friends and loved ones.

Consider his mom's case: At age 92, while still healthy, she told her son she was ready to go. But three years later, when hospitalized, she had lost the mental ability to make such a decision. Goldman had no choice but to have doctors sustain a life that was "more punishment than reward"—at a cost of $100,000 a year, a sum that would have devastated his mother had she been able to comprehend it. (Goldman is a financial planner and well aware of the burdens that end-of-life care puts on American families.) "There has to be a better way," he writes. "With a life panel, we could have ensured a timely and respectful end." Click for his full column. (Read more death panel stories.)

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