Edward Kennedy’s terminal illness has become a powerful symbol in the health care debate, Politico reports, though not necessarily in the way the Massachusetts senator would like. Although Kennedy recently wrote that he wants all Americans “to get the same treatment that US senators are entitled to,” experts say that cost-saving reform would require patients and caregivers to consider declining the kind of expensive, risky treatment that he has aggressively used on his brain tumor.
“What messages are being sent by the behavior of people in leadership positions?” an ethicist asks of Kennedy. Since one-third of Medicare money goes to patients close to death, observers suggest that reconsidering what to fund in such situations is a necessary step toward lowering costs. “It’s not about denying care,” an expert says. “This is about making sure they get the care they want and no more.”