Death Pamphlets

I didn’t expect my next post to involve something that made me simply sick to my stomach.

Apparently, the rightfully-derided “end-of-life counseling” that has been recently dropped from the healthcare bill already exists in government-healthcare…at the VA.

The Orwellian-titled “Your Life, Your Choices” contains some appalling questions:

There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”

To our veterans: our country has asked all that it can of you.  And for our government to ask, in return, that you sacrifice your life for us twice does not make me proud of my country.

(By the way, note that this pamphlet was introduced in 1997 under Clinton, suspended under Bush, and is now being reinstated under Obama.

Maybe conservatives are right when they claim that liberals hate the military.)

UPDATE (8/24): More VA failures exposed: 1,200 veterans told they had fatal Lou Gehrig’s disease, when in fact they didn’t.

And it took over a week for the problem to be corrected.


13 Responses to “Death Pamphlets”

  1. I don’t suppose you’ve read the pamphlet?

    The “appalling question” you listed is actually the prelude to a discussion of what “vegetable” means to different people. And those “guilt-inducing scenarios” exist only to help the reader explore their thoughts about each issue.

    The pamphlet is merely intended to help veterans make choices about end-of-life care and to advise them on ways of ensuring that their wishes are carried out through living wills, spokespersons, etc. Your (and Hot Air’s) characterization of the pamphlet is a distortion.

  2. According to your logic, the government believes that our veterans aren’t capable of exploring their own thoughts on life and death.

    Apparently, the government sees it necessary to interject in the most personal of issues.

    Living wills and spokespeople are one thing. For the government to act as an arbiter of morals is entirely different.

  3. Again, you’ve mischaracterized the intent of the document. It doesn’t push any agenda or suggest any particular course of action. In no way does it constitute the government becoming an “arbiter of morals.” This pamphlet is merely a guide intended to help its audience navigate a difficult process laced with complex medical and legal issues.

    As an example, I will again refer to that “appalling question,” which merely illustrates the importance of precisely communicating one’s wishes. Following the question, the pamphlet enumerates several people’s very different interpretations of the word “vegetable.” Many people might believe that term sufficient, but it can misinterpreted.

    Similarly, those “guilt-inducing” scenarios are really just a checklist of possible situations, for each of which have different choices for the veteran to make. It would be easy to leave one out and find oneself in a situation for which there are no instructions.

    I’ll ask you again: have you read through the pamphlet? If you do, you will see that it is not in any way insidious. It is only an aid that actually does help people to make their own personal choices about their lives.

  4. What is the purpose of having the government frame the debate when it comes to end-of-life issues? Certainly there are medical and theological sources from which most people, veterans or not, can derive information. Having the provider of ones healthcare offering up ideas, when they are in fact footing the bill, is a little bit of a conflict-of-interest.

    I think most reasonable folks would take a certain amount of offense if they were lying in a hospital bed and the word “vegetable” was used to characterize anything that wasn’t in their lunch, and rightly so.

    Again, as far as scenarios, most folks (veterans included) would probably resort to medical or theological advice before turning to bureaucratic sources.

    This whole ordeal is the classic host-with-guests scenario, except with the government being both the host and morally-indebted to the guests, whom they are offering healthcare to in return. The government appears to be peeking in, kindly asking the guests to leave…permanently. Whether or not that is their intent (outwardly it isn’t, but who knows how far they’re willing to go to “cut costs”) is not the isssue. The issue is how that is perceived by the veterans who are in whichever scenarios, whether that is having survived with brain damage, missing limbs, need for continual care, etc.

    Whether or not I have read the pamphlet (I have not) is not relevant here as I am not one receiving this care. However, from what I have read of this pamphlet, and in such a situation, I know I would start feeling less like a survivor and more like a burden on the country I was working to defend. And the last thing I want any of America’s finest to think is that they have ever been or will be a burden on their country.

    Have you read the pamphlet and/or been in one of these difficult scenarios? I am fascinated to find out.

  5. […] his constituents by doing the opposite of what they want. Bulletproof Diction: Death Pamphlets JustOneMinute: New From The Times – When We Said “False”, We Meant “Kinda […]

  6. I read the document. Although I personally am not in one of these situations, my grandfather (a veteran) did. His wishes were not clear and my family found itself with a difficult and painful choice.

    Having not read the pamphlet, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that it “frames the debate” or “offers up ideas.” It does not. It does, however, repeatedly suggest that veterans consult their religious leaders to help them make decisions.

    As I said before: it is only a guide, intended to help people through the /process/ of writing a living will. I will excerpt its introduction, which I think sums up the intent of the document.

    There’s only one person who is truly qualified to tell health care providers how you feel about different kinds of health care issues—and that’s you. But, what if you get sick, or injured so severely that you can’t communicate with your doctors or family members? Have you thought about what kinds of medical care you would want? Do your loved ones
    and health care providers know your wishes?

    Many people assume that close family members automatically know what they want. But studies have shown that spouses guess wrong over half the
    time about what kinds of treatment their husbands or wives would want.
    You can help assure that your wishes will direct future health care decisions through the process of advance care planning.

    Take note of the word “advance.” This document is not intended to be shown to patients in critical condition, only to help them plan for eventualities.

    I suggest you read the pamphlet. It’s not at all what you think.

  7. First things first…as far as medical care goes, erring on the side of life is always the best choice, regardless of the patient’s unknown wishes. Case in point, the Terri Schiavo debacle. Of course, if a situation like that is avoidable, then it’s clear that people should make their wishes known to their family regardless of their current medical conditions. Hopefully, Terri Schiavo’s untimely passing at the very least stimulated a debate amongst people who hadn’t communicated their wishes clearly enough to their families. And I understand what it’s like to have a close family member in such a situation…I was astounded by the amount of pressure that doctors made to “pull the plug”. Thank God for miracles.

    I would love to read the pamphlet except for the fact that it is no longer on the VA website and its use has apparently been temporarily suspended.

  8. Thank you very much for the link and giving me a chance to finally take a full look at the pamphlet. There are parts that could be kept, but there are also parts that should be dropped. I can see why it has been put on hiatus now. And the endorsements at the end are quite telling.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    What endorsements? If you’re talking about the resource list at the end, you’re reaching.

    Which parts should be dropped?

  10. The above comment was mine, not Anonymous.

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