by Lori Romanhttp://regularfolksunited.com/index.php?tab=article_view&article_id=2034 â€œI recommend that you seriously consider a â€œdo not resuscitateâ€ order, said the seemingly nice man in the white coat. â€œHe has had a good long life, but he has diminishing quality of life. If, for instance, he has an infection or illness we could just provide comfort care for him.â€
This was my first introduction to government controlled â€œhealth careâ€. The man he was suggesting unworthy of penicillin or CPR was my happy, loving fatherâ€”a man who lit up the room with his smile and kind words, despite his dementia. A man who served his country in WWII and lived an honorable life. A man who was otherwise healthy and active.
The doctor then suggested that my father possibly brought on the dementia by drinking, thereby, I suppose, further justifying that no further treatment should be wasted on him. It was, after all, his fault. I looked at the doctor in horror. Yes, the Irishman with the twinkle in his eye enjoyed a few beers and an occasional shot of Jim Beam, but did that make him less valuable as a person? Did that place him in a different category in some government chart?
Comfort care? That is a nice way of saying, â€œWe will withhold real treatment in order to save Medicare dollarsâ€.
I fired that doctor and found another, but I realized how this mindset had permeated the medical system when Dad went into the hospital with a bladder and kidney infection. An emergency room doctor made similar comments. This doctor suggested that I did not need to feed my father now that he was unable to feed himselfâ€”in essence suggesting euthanasia for a man who simply had an infection treatable with antibiotics.
â€œI donâ€™t believe in starving old people,â€ I shot back. â€œI want you to treat my father as if he were your father.â€ She was taken aback.
Dadâ€™s severe infection and high temperature resulted in his admittance, and he made great progress in the hospital. But he was discharged before he was free from infection because his temperature fell one tenth of one point below the Medicare guideline for staying in the hospital. I begged the doctor to keep him and asked why he fell under Medicare guidelines when he had Blue Cross Blue Shield as a General Motors retiree. The doctor insisted that Medicare ruled and that my father was safer outside of the hospital where he would be less likely to contract a secondary infection.
I did what most people do; I trusted the authoritative person in the white coat. It was a fatal mistake. The lingering infection killed him a few weeks later.
One of my family members is a caregiver in a nursing home. She recently recounted the story of a woman with Alzheimers whose daughter signed an order forbidding the nursing home from feeding her. This woman still enjoyed walking the halls of the home and attending activities, but her disease robbed her of some functions, including the ability to eat on her own. She starved to deathâ€”a slow horrible death.
The health care legislation before Congress will codify neglect and abuse and either direct or indirect euthanizing of the elderly. Weâ€™ve already travelled too far down this road. We must turn back. If all life is not valued, no life is valued.