Focus on 'Futile Treatments' for End-of-Life Elderly, Times Again Argues

For the second day in a row, the Times on Tuesday argued forreining in "futile treatments at or near the end-of-life." Health columnist Jane E. Brody attacked Republicans for supposedly fear-mongering the issue:

Even the most innocent suggestion - a provision in the House bill to reimburse doctors who discuss end-of-life options with patients and families - was attacked by two Republican congressmen as taking us on the path to "government-encouraged euthanasia."

Many of the pointsin Brody's August 18 pieceappear sensible (more Americans, she stated as an example, need to talk about whether they want a feeding tube inserted if they can't be nourished by mouth). But, nowhere in the piece does the Times writerconsider whether Americans would be comfortable with government involvement in end-of-life care. In an op-ed in Monday's Times, medical novelist Richard Dooling lobbied forrestricting such expensive care and saw the following as a possible reality:

But given the political inertia, we could soon find ourselves in a triage situation in which there is no time or money to create medical-review boards to ponder cost-containment issues or rationing schemes. We'll be forced to implement quick-and-dirty rules based on something simple, sensible and easily verifiable. Like age. As in: No federal funds to be spent on intensive-care medicine for anyone over 85.

On Tuesday, Brody hit Republicans for misconstruing the issue:

This [euthanasia] accusation, in a statement by Representatives John A. Boehner of Ohio and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, reveals a profound misunderstanding of how most people say they want to be treated when their chances for meaningful survival are nil. Yet few have put their wishes in writing or even discussed them with their next of kin, leaving doctors and families in the lurch when their lives hang in the balance.

If the Times is going to keep highlighting this issue, it seems as though greater focus on the government and the possibility of rationed care for the elderly would be helpful in clarifying the issue.