In “Avoiding a Death Panel Redux,” Nicole Piemonte and Laura Hermer make the argument that the advance care planning consultation provision during the health care reform debate collapsed both because the language in the provision was deliberately misread and because some features of the language could in fact be misleading. We agree on both counts. We add that the cost-effectiveness provisions of the bill make us face difficult decisions we as a nation would rather avoid, but can and must face squarely and together.
It is time for an honest national conversation about at least two issues concerning medical care near the end of life. First, talking about or planning a good death with your doctor or nurse will not make death happen sooner. The data show that better planning for a well-managed terminal illness leads to longer life as well as better symptom control and less distress. Second, we need to quickly and directly confront the cost of end of life care in the United State, recognize the political consequences, and work with the broad middle to advance the common good.