Where more healthcare dollars are spent than anywhere else: End of life procedures that are intended not to just relieve pain and suffering, but to toss that desperate Hail Mary pass. Grab a few more months on the arms of “Whatever it takes, Doc — money’s no object.” This issue was raised in the breakout, almost apologetically, almost in a whisper. But it’s a serious money-eating monster that has to be thought about, thoughtfully; by all of us. I’m not asking anyone to decide what he or she would decide for him- or her self, but, when the family is gathered around grandma’s hospital bed, or that of a child. Let’s not pretend this is ever going to be easy. Perhaps if you considered the matter this way: If YOU had a secret ballot, would you vote to spend tens of thousands of dollars, a portion of which was YOUR money, on a long-bet procedure that might — only “might” — buy a couple more weeks or months for me?
End of life also goes to the highly troublesome death with dignity and assisted suicide controversies. The Church and numerous other religious sects have taken their stands four square. However, there are two aspects to this that are deserving of consideration and open discussion. On the premise that dignity is an essential component in that which defines the individual, shouldn’t the individual have the ultimate say over his or her life and death decision, not any other individual or institution? The other question pertains to the definition of humane treatment. We regard it so extremely inhumane that we have codified sanctions against forcing an animal to suffer in a painful state. How then can we rationalize forcing a person to endure excruciating pain to the very last breath, when the end is known? It’s your money, and your conscience.
Other issues raised included rehabilitative care; who says “yes”, who says “no”, who decides what’s efficacious and what’s wasteful and what’s in between, for how long, how much to spend.
All agreed that preventive care — education on behalf of healthy lifestyle choices — has to be a major part of any plan. Whether that is a mandate for mandatory physical education, with no excuses save for actual physical disabilities, in the schools was hinted at. That Americans in general partake quite unhealthy diets is a fact. But truly healthy diets are unobtainable to those who are in poverty, who have lost their incomes. Then, it’s what fills the stomach.
Lastly, for now, EVERYONE agree that EVERYONE would have to be included, regardless what scheme might be settled upon. Healthy folks could not be permitted to remain aloof and only buy in once they fell ill or injured. While you might have some choice as to which plan, you would have no choice whether to be in some plan.
As with a publicly financed education system or a freeway system or a national electric grid or a broadband network, the up front costs are going to be astronomical. And that is going to be a political hurdle no politician looks forward to with anything but dread. Setting it aside, for someone else in some future generation to grapple with will only serve to exacerbate to economy crushing weight a circumstance that is already crushing individuals and individual families and business and government. Doesn’t matter, however: viewing the video of the breakout was an eye-opener as to just how inordinately complex and difficult this is going to be.
From the first breath of life to the last, and all of them during the interim, things ARE going to change big-time and the initial costs are going to be even bigger. Everyone has an absolute moral obligation to educate themselves on the topic. Everyone also have a moral obligation to enter the fray. I strongly urge the beginning of that education be a reference to the video of the Washington summit, and not rely on spun or un-spun sound-bites, or what you heard from someone you know.