In order to help cut medical costs, it has become popular to try to find financial savings in the last few months of life. President Barack Obama told "The New York Times," “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill.”
In an attempt to attack that cost, the House wrote into its health care bill a section that would encourage physicians to have a consultation with their patients about end-of-life choices and advance directives. While the bill says nothing about the “death panels” that some politicians have used to work their base into a frenzy, the section does imply that Congress hopes to save money in the long run by reimbursing doctors for the consultations in which they’ll direct more patients away from aggressive end of life care.
The President acknowledges the difficulty in trying to convince elderly and chronically ill patients to not pursue medical treatment that could extend their lives. As he told "The Times," “Whether, sort of in the aggregate, society making those decisions to give my grandmother, or everybody else’s aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they’re terminally ill is a sustainable model, is a very difficult question. … That’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that’s also a huge driver of cost, right?”
For conservative Christians like myself, this positions the government on a slippery slope toward euthanasia. No, the bill doesn’t endorse the killing of terminally ill patients. Not even close. Euthanasia is still illegal throughout the U.S., and physician-assisted suicide is only legal in two states. However, within the context of a bill designed to reign in medical costs, many Christians are concerned that the government seems to be on the side of “pulling the plug.”
Read the rest at Duke University’s Faith and Leadership site.