Saturday, August 15, 2009

End of life medical care

It is true that there needs to be a reform of end of life medical care. Unfortunately for the country the reforms originally poffered under one of the five competing and not thoroughly defined plans promoted by President Obama offered exactly the wrong reform.

End of life counseling, death with dignity discussions and other such means aimed at helping seniors plan for the ultimate end, or even panels that decide the life value of the care and thus cut off care as some describe (and may or may not have been in any one of the five plans) are not the answer that is needed. Those reforms mean more regulation and more bureaucrats, which will ensure that the care fails to offer any actual concern for the people involved.

The problem lies not in the absense of government, but once again in government involvement.

It is well known in the medical profession that the most expensive treatments are almost always the end of life care, whether the patient be 30 or 90. The patient will start to suffer from what medical professionals call "TBF", short for "Total Body Failure." At that point there is no care that is cure. All the care will do is extend life for a few more hours, or perhaps even minutes.

But when a patient is experiencing TBF, generally the family says "Do what ever it takes to keep (him) alive." The Doctor's hands are thus tied, by law, to fulfill the wishes of the family and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few more hours of life.

The one thing the doctor cannot do, without risking a malpractice suit and possible license revocation, is to say "there is nothing more I can do, so I will do nothing more." He is forbidden to say that.

Since the family is not the one paying the final bills, they belong to the patient himself, the patient's insurance if available, and probably medicare and medicaid, the family has no reason to worry about the cost of these extra hours. The bill is paid for by everyone else, either the hospital or insurance company absorbs the cost and passes it along to everyone else, or the taxpayer absorbs the cost and passes it along to everyone else.

One simple way to substantially reduce the cost of medical care is would be to reduce the regulations that forbid doctors from making this determination, but that would be opposed by statists because that would be doctors instead of bureaucrats making the decision, and that ould be less regulation instead of more. But, unlike the end of life counseling preferred by statists this would actually work.

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