Why we need Death Panels

 At a ripe, young age of 52, I have experienced both the quick, unexpected loss of friends and family, as well as the slow, lingering, painful, disgustingly slow, (did I say slow) and agonizing death of many elder family and friends. Frankly, if I were in their shoes, I choose the former. 

When you look into the eyes of a terminal case, knowing that pain wracks their bodies every single minute, and that current FDA rules preclude their doctor from providing large enough doses of opiates to deal with their pain, you know our system is fucked up.  The FDA’s response? THEY WILL BECOME ADDICTED! 

Pardon mois? A terminal case, often non-communicative, mostly inert, dying, immobile,  pain-ridden, future corpse, with no chance of survival BECOMES AN ADDICT?  Talk about moronic maroon morans. Who the hell cares? Give them what they need. Anything else is simply cruel.

It only gets worse. A very good friend is an administrator at a large, Chicago-based, educational medical center. She has the inside numbers. Her speciality causes her to treat those in critical care. And her findings are horrific. 

Here is the bald, uncomfortable truth: 40% of every individual’s health care costs  – for your entire lifetime – are incurred in the last month of life. Wrap your head around that fact for a bit. People who have no chance of survival, people in unremitting, constant, and horrific pain (with inadequate pain relief) people in irreversible comas, and brain-dead corpses that can only be maintained by our great new technologies, THESE PEOPLE EAT UP 40% of the total costs of the total health care costs for every single person in America. Medical costs incurred when there is absolutely no hope for remission or survival. And not just for them, individually, but for every American. 

Some reasons are scary, others are simply criminal. In one case she described, many expensive machines were keeping "alive" a corpse, a collection of otherwise inanimate flesh, a brainless, thoughtless piece of maggot food,  because of the family’s religious views.

In several other cases, the pension or disability  income for the future corpse was so large, that they refused to even consider disconnecting a brain dead parent or loved one. And they threaten to sue.

In other cases, people simply had no clue that their loved ones’ conditions were a one way street. There was no magic cure. There was not future technology that would cure them. They would linger, often in pain, until even the machines could not keep a lump of flesh alive any further. 

40% of all health care costs incurred in the last month of life. Per person. 

Let’s repeat that horrific fact. 40% of all health care costs incurred in the last month of life. Per person. 

And now the translation: At the end of all too many people’s lives, there is no hope of a cure. There is no possibility of further normal life. There is nothing ahead but death. And frankly, most of the sufferers would welcome the end. Except their families refuse. 

Think of the wasted resources. We have comatose people in line for transplants, even though a new kidney, heart or lung will not reverse their fatal condition. We have brain-dead lumps of inanimate flesh wasting the most expensive, high tech, and rather rare and dear machinery, keeping those machines away from newly injured or diseased folks who could actually gain a huge benefit from their intended use. And worst of all, we keep people alive who really have no interest in more pain and suffering. 

To some extent, Senator Grassley is correct. We DO need to talk about death panels. Because our society has a very strong need for them. 

Too many people fail to have wills, much less powers of attorney, living wills, or written instructions of how to deal with their ultimately fatal conditions. A death panel would solve much of that, and lower health care costs tremendously. 

a) If you are brain dead, pull the plug. Any other response is sick and inhuman. 

b) If your disease is terminal, provide adequate levels of pain meds to STOP THE EFFING PAIN. Period. And if an OD by choice provide the ultimate relief, well, that is their choice. 

c) If shyteheels are keeping a family member alive, solely by artificial means, and for the sole reason that they gain financially by keeping an individual alive, fine. They can continue to do so. BUT EVERY CENT FOR TREATMENT COMES OUT OF THEIR POCKETS. 

There are other suggestions and recommendations, but I suspect that these few points might excite a few folks. 


  1. lriggs

    To have a personal choice of whether to increase medication or to end it all with an overdose, would certainly be gained ground in this country. For the government or one of it’s agencies to determine through regulations when they euthanasia or withhold care is pure crazy. To tolerate the practice of eugenics under the watchful eye of the Government or NGO is insane. Yea, let’s give our health and welfare/healthcare monies to same visionaries, that created and oversee, the Social Security, Amtrak and the Postal Service.

  2. Naturalist111

    The fact that anyone states that they will not give enough pain medication because they would become addicted is undeniable proof of their insanity and stupidity or a liar. Out of one side of their mouths they are saying the patient is terminal then the other they are afraid they might become addicted. Just what do they believe? They are going to live and become addicted or are they going to die and take their addiction with them? The human condition as it stands is insane. An above post makes one of those points. Liberation. If you truly believe in a after life then why on earth prolong the suffering. When a person is 70 plus years or older what do you expect to happen? A miracle and they recover and what then? They act and look like they are 50 again? I have yet to see this in a terminally ill case such as fourth stage cancer. They say someone wins the publishers clearing house grand prize but I haven’t met them either. The planet, plants and animals are enjoyable but you people are some piece of messed up work. It should only be decided by the person chosen in their will or anything else so decreed.

  3. giving-up-in-nc

    Our government also runs the military, police, fire departments, and came up with the internet that we are communicating on right now. You got a problem with those government products?

    And as far as the three you seem to think despairingly of.

    You don’t think Social Security is a good idea? Try telling that to Seniors. And I betcha you aint going to turn down your check when it comes time for you to collect it.

    You don’t think Amtrak is any good. Shut it down and watch the North East grind to a halt.

    I have never understood why people complain about the post office. I am in my early 50s and it always worked fine for me. I cant recall ever having it loose an important piece of mail on me, and sometimes I was down right amazed on how fast it delivered things.

    Times they are a changing and less mail is being delivered because of email, etc. So some post offices are going to have to shutdown and some people get laid off. But I see no other underlying problems with the post office.

  4. John1172002

    I had stage 3B urinary tract cancer, and was told I had a 3 in 10 chance of being alive at the end of 5 years. That was 14 years ago. I’m living on one kidney just fine, thank you. I had a “silent” heart attack which could have killed me. It didn’t, and now I’m 66 years old.

    I have a Living Will, and any time I have to be admitted to a hospital, I sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. I made my peace with death long ago. My wife has my health care proxy, and I have hers. I have made it extremely clear that I want enough painkillers to keep me out of pain, even if it shortens my life. I have told my wife in all seriousness that if she does not pull the plug, I will come back and haunt her every day of her life.

    Not enough painkillers because the patient might become addicted? Gimme a break!


  5. imp2009

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with death panels and we need to stop having to defend them. Death panels are a part of the quality in a healthcare system. Death panels are good supportive care panels that do the toughest job in healthcare. We educate terminal patients about the most difficult decision, letting go of life, ending their suffering, and having a good quality death.
    Narconon Vistabay ||

  6. Rob Kezelis

    absolutely true. 

    A doctor friend keeps harping about the family that earns $20k a month by keeping the family corpse alive by machine, using precious resources that more viable bags of mostly water could use. 


    Living in non-stop, excruciating pain is not living. 

  7. onlinenilanjan

    Since healthcare for the elderly has been socialized in the US for 45 years without the elderly facing “death panels”, it’s hard to understand how president’s “public option” might lead to such an outcome for the younger folks.

    || rehab centers ||

  8. Nogood

    We treat our dogs better than our loved ones. If I am faced with a terminal illness which would rack my body with pain and only add to the pockets of a doctor or hospital, I would certainly like to be treated like a dog.

  9. danders3

    This article presents many good points. What this country really needs instead of all the hollering and fear-mongering is some rational discussion on our future as it relates to medical ethics.

    There’s also a bottom line as to finances…. If our choice as a nation is to cover most or all ills at any costs, we need to seriously discuss whose wallets are going to need to get pried open. The service doesn’t come free. If we won’t cover all costs, then there needs to be serious discussion as to how you do what has become an evil word…. Rationing.

    Radical thought here… Should it go so far as to have a law requiring a living will in order to continue to have health insurance?

    Dale Anderson

  10. storky

    This argument is moot.
    Death Panels were a rhetorical invention with no basis in reality. Accept the legislation which includes reimbursement for end-of-life consultations — living wills. When such consultations are essentially free, procrastination is the only valid excuse for not establishing one.

  11. debmat

    I DO understand the concerns about cost when one nears death. The problem is: who is to say what is “near death”?

    I have had a personal experience in this area and I feel it should be up to the family for this kind of decision….or at least they should have a big say in “life and death”. Despite the odds, my husband at 59, survived the odds, and lives. I am glad we had the medical coverage for allowing me to make this decision….not some government board or government restrictions on the amount of funds/procedures. etc.

    This IS a tough area to regulate…but individuals should have a say in this area….not government.

  12. Siannan

    You will never get this beyond the “by any means necessary” people. These are the people who believe that even anencephaltic babies can live happy lives (nope, not even close – only a brain stem and they only live for days at best). That Terri Schiavo could have lived a long, happy life with just a little therapy (yeah, until the autopsy proved she really was in a persistant vegetative state).

    I had a friend who years ago delivered a baby at 21 weeks gestation. There was no way this child at that time could live (in fact, rarely at this time also) and if she did, would probably have several birth defects including some level of brain damage. The neo-natal people repeated recessitated this non-viable child (28 times over a six day period) until finally the poor child’s under-developed body gave out. My friend and her husband stood there, the last 8 times, screaming “Please stop, let her go” and were ignored by the hospital staff. They recessitated this baby repeatedly, not because it was a good thing to do, but because they could.


  13. ekaton

    I’d like to see the bill. There was probably a seperate entry for each resuscitation attempt.

    Kent Shaw

  14. almandine

    Thanks Carl…

    He died while I was writing the post. Had the decency to save me from that terrible decision. Funny… it seemed he was waiting for me to get home and say goodbye.

    So long Bear.

  15. almandine

    Maggot food…

    and after your missive on treason to the body human I thought there was common decency and respect in your soul. Just another opinion piece, eh? Not that needless pain and suffering is ever justified.

    I just got home from a trip and my old dog is lying in near coma, apparently from distemper. He’s in terrible shape. Today will be his last. God I hate to see him go. A lotta love between us has filled the last 14 years.

    On my trip I managed to spend some time with my 87 year old Dad, whose memory is pretty bad and who tells the same stories over and over again. It won’t be too long before he becomes essentially “thoughtless” too. Should I just go ahead and pull the plug at that point? He probably eats too much to justify keeping alive. Should I wait until he can’t find his way home from town? Maybe I should choose now between the nursing home and the grave? Hand him a gun and tell him to man-up? How long before he becomes that brainless, inanimate corpse-to-be should I decide? Then again, why must it be me?

    THAT’S IT! Let the govt do it for me. No need to soil my conscience.

    Naw, it’s his decision, and hopefully he will have made provisions to let me know what he decided. After all… it’s HIS life we’re talking about, not my “Right to Choose”. Sorry, that’s another problem.

    That old song keeps running thru my head: I’m not afraid of dyin’, it’s the thought of being dead…

    Ain’t it the general case?

  16. Carl Nemo

    Hi Almandine,

    I offer my condolences concerning your dog. It’s tough to lose what amounts to a kinship that cannot be found even with the best of human friends at times. : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  17. Rob Kezelis

     you obviously missed my biggest points. 

    These folks are braindead.  They use resources that could and should be used on the living, at least on those who have a chance for recovery. Until you walk through an ICU unit and experience just how badly most critical care units are being misused, you cannot understand the problem. Ask any doctor or RN in those fields. They will tell you horror stories that will change your mind. 

    When there is nothing keeping the flesh alive but a series of machines, is that life? At some point, I think not. 

    Death with honor, grace, and no pain does not mean killing off old folks. 

  18. DejaVuAllOver

    I find it one of life’s (maybe death’s) biggest ironies that people who so loudly claim death to be a liberation are the ones who seek most to deny others that liberation. Or perhaps it’s just another example of egomaniacs who love to play God over others’ most basic rights.

  19. RichardKanePA

    My father was mad at me that I didn’t like the idea of a living will.

    When he went to the nursing home he felt he was in prison and begged me to let him out of the chair he was tied into where he would have got up and immediately fallen if I did so.

    He felt he was in prison and wondered why I was imprisoning him as well.

    He because of his living will he didn’t get tube attached to a vain in the neck when all his arm vanes were unavailable for any more food and pneumonia medication.

    Part of a living will ends up not trying to keep an unconscious person alive.

    Perhaps if one of the visits payed by medicare and social security and Obama’s health care had to be a pro-life counselor, it might make everyone happy. But I guess I live in a dream world since most enjoy the fight.


  20. hologram5

    I was in a situation where a decision was made to pull the plug on a family member. My grandmother had a massive heart attack and was brain dead with no chance of recovery. My mother could not make the choice so I had to. I had to remember conversations with my grandmother of how badly she felt watching my grandfather deteriorate. She said she did NOT want to live like that. A living will is the only answer to that. Please spare your loved ones the very hard choices in this matter. Make a living will, keep it handy. I plan to as I will NOT live like that. Peace, Keith

    To Boldly Go…
    Anywhere there is sanity…