As town hall meetings erupt around the country, and as largely incoherent celebrity pols muddy the waters, Dr. Robert Fine, director of clinical ethics for Baylor Health Care Systems, tries to inject some actual medical facts into the battle. Among his points:
Although we can’t cure as many patients as we would like, we have become quite good at prolonging dying with what are ultimately nonbeneficial treatments.
Why do I say nonbeneficial? Because much of it causes great suffering, does not enhance survival and, in some cases, causes patients to die sooner than if they received only treatments necessary for comfort. And by the way, this nonbeneficial treatment near the end of life contributes mightily to the fact that $1 out of every $4 spent on health care is in the last year of life
These are matters we need to come to grips with if we’re to make changes for the better in our health care system. But it’s hard to do that when mudwrestling replaces debate. Dr. Fine’s piece is here.