Wow! Wasn't Ronni Bennett's idea on having all of us post on health care reform on the same day a great one? It took me two days to read all of the posts and they were all excellent. I was especially excited to read blogs from people in other countries telling how happy they were with their health care systems validating my belief that they were to be envied. They also refuted the lies being told about their medical care.
The more I read, the more I became aware of just how lousy our system is. It is mind boggling to me that there are still those who think it's the best in the world. 'Taint necessarily so' just because Rush or a Republican Senator says it is.
Some of the comments told sad stories about the horrible decisions they had to make when an elderly relative died. I think it's now time to tell my story.
My husband was 62 at the time he had a massive stroke. He didn't have any health insurance and I had to sign a waiver that I would be responsible for his bills before the hospital would admit him. Of course, I did so, and in my distraught condition I couldn't worry about that at the time. A friend advised me to get him in the state medical program for low income (ACCESS), which saved me from becoming impoverished.
Seven months later a tissue biopsy revealed multiple inoperable malignent brain tumors. After the biopsy, my husband could no longer speak and the stroke symptoms worsened. He was a large man and I could not care for him at home. I was working and I didn't have the choice of quitting. I had no option but to leave him in a nursing home that the doctor had placed him in. (Reform should include home care givers so the patient can die at home. It would be cheaper and more humane.)
He was a prisoner in his own body unable to make his wishes known, talk of his fears, or even feed himself. He had been a vital fun loving man and I knew how terrible this must have been for him. He used to joke that he knew how he was going to die - he was going to be shot by a jealous lover at the age of 99.
Not only did Wayne not have health insurance, he did not have a living will.
In October I got a telephone call from his doctor telling me that my husband had managed to pull his catheter out and had an infection. He asked me if I wanted him to treat the infection. I knew that without treatment Wayne would die. I also knew that he would want to. But I had to make the decision alone and immediately . It was one of the hardest things I ever did, because, no matter how you rationalize it, you have the power of life and death in your hands. I asked the doctor if he could keep him comfortable if the infection wasn't treated. When he assured me that he could, I told him, "Do not treat it." I would not wish having to make that decision on anyone. I know its illogical, but there remains a feeling of guilt. If Wayne had signed a living will the decision would have been his.
I am sure that everyone who is remotely interested in this subject has heard about Sarah Palin's vicious statement about 'Obama's death panels' and about Charles Grassley 's disingenuous statement about pulling the plug on grandma. This is one of the more despicable lies being spread and I will tell you what is really at stake. (Orrin Hatch failed to denounce Sarah and Charles statements to his shame.)
The right wing won that round. The clause was pulled from the bill.
What they were mis-characterizing was a clause that would have included payment for a consultation between a doctor and the patient on 'end of life' care. A consultation would surely include information and help on drawing up a living will. Having one would spare relatives from having to make the kind of decision that I and others have had to make. That is why I am hoping they will reinstate the clause.
My children will never have to make a decision like I did if I should end my days in a lingering death. I have an iron clad living will and medical power of attorney. I have also discussed my wishes with my children and informed my sister of my wishes. There will be no arguing on what to do between relatives as so often happens in cases like this. I have taken control of my ability to die without machines, as nature intended.