First, I ask that you watch this clip from the Daily Show of Betsy McCaughey a Republican and Insurance Industry shill who originated the "Death Panel" mania that has gripped the most mentally challenged in our country (most assuredly the 20% of the population left who self-identify as "Republican").
Pay particular attention to the actual reading of the "Death Panel" page that McCaughey claims means that doctors are going to be forced to kill people.
OK, now notice the language of that section. As Jon Stewart rightly and rationally points out it judges the doctor on his adherence to patient wishes. McCaughey tries to make it sound like this means if you've every signed a Living Will in your life your doctor will be forced to withhold treatment no matter if your document event says he must provide every measure possible even, as Stewart humorously muses "Gold plated enemas."
Let me tell you a story about doctors and Living Wills and Healthcare Powers of Attorney.
My brother died of complications from AIDS several years ago. His partner of many years had predeceased him and he had moved into a rented house about half a block from me and Michael. I watched his decline over a few years as he progressed from fairly healthy to frail and sickly.
Finally, he was hospitalized almost constantly for one thing or another. Luckily, he had signed a Living Will when he and Tony first discovered their HIV status. He was adamant that when it was his time he wished to go. He became even more adamant after Tony's death as he believed that they would see each other again in the afterlife. He did not want to prolong his death and suffering.
In the last week of his life he drifted in and out of consciousness. Either my sister or myself spent most of every day with him. When one of us would have to work the other would sit with him. Even Tony's father and stepmother flew down from Massachusetts to sit with him during this time.
As it became clear that the time was nearing and he was no longer able to express his wishes his doctor decided that it was time to use artificial feeding (feeding tube) and artificial hydration. Edd had been adamant he wanted neither. His living will stated so clearly. He wanted to go and he didn't want anyone drawing out the inevitable.
One afternoon while I was at work, my sister called in a panic. She was crying and weeping. I thought my brother had finally died, but instead she managed to tell me that the doctor was overriding the Living Will and sending my brother to surgery to have a feeding tube put in. I could not imagine why he would do this other than the fact that he had become a good friend of my brother's over the years and could not control his own emotions. He wanted to do whatever he could - even if it was against his patient's wishes.
I had her put the nursing supervisor on the phone and told her that if they moved my brother I would press charges. I also told her that as of that moment the doctor was fired and we would find a new doctor.
Cut to a few hours later and the doctor had managed to get his emotions under control and agreed to abide by my brother's wishes in his living will. However, it was not before he had caused a great deal of stress for a family already dealing with a stressful situation and disrupting what should have been a gentle and peaceful exit with a time of fear and panic.
When Jon Stewart read that section I flashed on that episode and unlike Ms. McCaughey and her paid and subsidized outrage and craziness, I quietly cheered the fact that it reflected the fact that patients and their families would be given the final say and doctors who refused to adhere to those end of life wishes and who caused stress and strain at such a time would find their quality ratings dropped (and thus their reimbursement rates).
But, McCaughey is paid to be crazy whereas those of us who have sat by the beds of our loved ones know the true value of a Living Will and why it should be our final statement about our care in those last moments or hours when we may not be able to speak for ourselves anymore.