Jill Burcum: Mayo Clinic refutes 'death panel' fears

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Updated: August 25, 2009 - 9:38 PM

The Economist magazine dubbed Mayo Clinic one of the nation’s most influential voices in the health care reform debate. President Obama has cited the Rochester medical center in many speeches.

So it’s good to see Mayo weigh in during August’s sound-and-fury season of town hall meetings on one of the most controversial reform proposals — Medicare funding for advance directives on end-of-life care. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley helped incite discredited fears that this would lead to so-called "death panels’’ that would pull the plug on the elderly and disabled.

Mayo’s latest policy perspective, released Tuesday, reiterates the organization’s advocacy for payment reform and individual mandates, as well as its staunch opposition to a public plan based on a government-run, price-controlled, Medicare-like insurance model.

But it's the respected clinic's statement refuting the death panel idea that is the most valuable  contribution to public debate. Here’s the Mayo statement on this issue:

"Patients and their families deserve the opportunity to have an informed discussion with their doctors in regard to their wishes for care if they are terminally ill. This was the strong sentiment of a gathering of experts convened last October in Denver by the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center. Health care professionals should help patients and support their decisions before they are ill. It is reasonable that Medicare fund advanced directive counseling as part of their support for health education and shared decision making. With improved understanding and shared decision making people can provide their provider with their wishes rather than have those choices made for them by others. It is well known that patients may choose and receive more comfort care than intensive care if they are terminally ill with an advanced directive than if choices are made for them by relatives or providers. This is not rationing and centers on respect for the patient and their opinions."

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