The Boston Globe – by The Editorial Board
THE NEWS EARLIER THIS month that Medicare plans to reimburse doctors for conversations with patients about medical treatment at the end of life represents an important step forward for public policy in health care. It also signals a welcome shift to a more open attitude toward a subject most people would rather avoid. In short, the agency is proposing to support open discussions with medical professionals about the way we want to die. Decisions by Medicare, which insures 55 million older Americans, often set the standard followed by private insurers as well.
In recent years, more attention has been drawn to end-of-life issues — specifically, what kind of treatment do we want, or not want, in life’s final stages. What’s more, how do we make our wishes known, how do we guide our caregivers so that they’ll know what we want when we can no longer speak for ourselves? It’s a topic that’s been uncomfortable for physicians as well as patients and their families. As the surgeon and author Atul Gawande pointed out in his best-selling “Being Mortal,” it’s a subject he himself avoided as a physician until he was faced with the terminal illness of his own father. Read the full story here.