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Friday, August 21, 2009

"Death Book": Total Non-Fiction: A Post by Conservative Girl with a Voice

Have you all heard of the "death book"? Believe it or not, before all this talk of "death panels" was brought to the forefront, the "death book," although in order to be politically correct was entitled "Your Life, Your Choices" already existed. The 52-page document, originally published in 1997 by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), was developed as a way to cut costs in terms of the health care our brave veterans would receive once they returned back home. Once the Bush Administration learned of this document, they ordered the VA to stop using it for not only health reasons, but moral issues as well. In the August 18th edition of the "Wall Street Journal," is an op-ed written by Jim Towey regarding the "death book."
Towey is an amazing individual who fights on the side of life. He created the document entitled "Five Wishes," which is the most widely used living will in America (over 13 million in national circulation). According to Towey, his document contains "no standard bias and does not withdraw or withhold medical care" unlike the controversial "death book." It also meets all the legal requirements in 43 states, and unlike the lengthy 52-pages of the VA's so-called "end-of-life" planning document, Towey's document is only 12 pages. In his op-ed, Towey writes the following:

"After a decade of observing end-of-life discussions, I can attest to the great fear that many patients have, particularly those with few family members and financial resources. I lived and worked in an AIDS home in the mid-1980s and saw first-hand how the dying wanted more than health care—they wanted someone to care."
Thank God for people like Jim Towey. Like the late Princess Diana, Towey knows the simple gestures like holding a sick person's hand mean so much. Personally, This couldn't be more true. The hardest decision my family ever had to make was the decision to put my grandmother into a convalescent hospital because we could longer care for her ourselves. She had a feeding tube and needed around the clock care. Although my grandmother was in pain and had many hardships, she did not quit the fight to live, and my family was with her every step of the way. It was the little things that meant the most to her. The visits, the talks, the time spent with her. When my grandma passed away, my mom and grandpa were there holding each of her hands. While my grandma may have been in pain, she did NOT want to go until God called her home. I will never forget the time I spent with her. The joy on her face spoke volumes to me. Whenever any of her family entered the room, it just made her day. Grandma loved life and fought hard to the very end. As a born-again Christian, she went when it was God's time for her to go, not the government's.

While the discussion of cutting health care costs is at the forefront of the Obama Administration's health care debate, it is important to note that in cutting the costs will come the reduction in care received. Perhaps the "death book" is best at foreshadowing this. According to Towey, Obama "will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care." It is important to note that this document had been used prior to the Bush Administration's suspension of its use. During the Clinton Administration, this document was used as the "preferred living will" in VA nursing rooms and hospitals. Just last year, the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care wanted the document's practices to be once again put into use. How dare the government come in between veterans, their families and their doctors? Decisions concerning one's life should be up to the individual and his/her family, not the government.

Our veterans should be treated with the upmost respect and honored for all they have done to serve our great country. When they come home, they should be given the best care and treated honorably, for it is the least we can do for all they have done for us. Yet, instead of treating them this way, the "death book" seems to help our good veterans determine if their lives are worth living anymore. The main author of the document is none other than Dr. Robert Pearlman who is the chief of ethics evaluation for the VA National Center for Ethics in Health Care. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Pearlman is his support for physician-assisted suicide as well as his calls for the rationing of healthcare. So let me get this straight: The same man who supports physician-assisted suicide and rationed health care is author of a book that is being used to help veterans make end-of-life decisions? Not only is this deeply disturbing, but it is morally offensive to think that our good men and women are being guided in their decision making with a book that was written by a man who seems to condemn life, not value it. As I was researching for more on this document, I could not believe what I found. Although this book is entitled "Your Life, Your Choices," the information in this document is anything but the patient's choice. Towey describes some of the most frightening, disturbing aspects of the book. He describes the book as a "push poll"of sorts, which "presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions...." The book gives 21 different scenarios, asking "users to then decide whether their own life would be 'not worth living.'" Here we have the world's most brave men and women, who fought in and survived circumstances that I cannot even begin to imagine, and they are going to be quizzed about how to die? I don't know about you, but I guarantee these brave men and women who fought for our country want to live and die with dignity, not be told how they should die. They are fighters, not quitters. You are not going to believe some of the scenarios that are laid out in this book. Towey lists some of the most disheartening: "The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to 'shake the blues.'" Towey mentions another section of the book, which asks: "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" What this very question implies is hard to stomach. The sick scenarios do not end with this question. Towey also reports others scenarios: "There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as 'I can no longer contribute to my family's well being,' 'I am a severe financial burden on my family' and that the vet's situation 'causes severe emotional burden for my family.'" These very scenarios are not only morally troublesome, but downright evil. How dare the VA treat our vets this way? Furthermore, how dare the Obama Administration allow this book back into practice. This very book is a death sentence to our good men and women. This book seems to imply that our vets should feel guilty if they want to remain alive, enjoy life and die a natural death. They have made enough sacrifices in serving our country, leave them alone- enough is enough. President Obama and his administration have NO right playing God.

Our good men and women come home with enough to deal with, and now the government wants to dictate who among them lives and dies? All our vets should have to worry about is spending their later years surrounded by their friends and family, enjoying life. After all they have done for us in sacrificing and defending or liberty and freedom, the least we could do is allow them the dignity and respect they deserve, but instead the government is treating them like second-class citizens, making them feel guilty for taking a breath. Towey is definitely right when he writes: "When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?" Towey is exactly right. Once the goverment has control of the lives of vulnerable individuals, when is the line drawn? What is the definition of a life worth living? I can tell you that those soldiers who come home after fighting tooth and nail with sheer grit and determination know what it is to fight and WANT to live- They don't want to be thought of as being burdens to society because they are NOT burdens! One of my favorite sentences from Towey's article comes when he writes: "One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran's health-care system that seems intent on his surrender." So true. Our soldiers are taught to fight and be strong, yet this book is going against everything they have fought so hard for, everything they train for before they go into battle. The information in this book is basically a contract of death for our veterans. The men and women at Walter Reed who are going through intense physical therapy just so they can take another step, lift their arms to give their loved ones a hug, or learn how to adapt to life in a wheelchair need hope and optimism, not fear and guilt. They need to feel that the VA and their president respect them and care for them, but with a book like this in place, it is hard for me to believe that they really do care.

In Towey's op-ed, he discusses the period between 2007-2008 in which the "death book" was updated, and an interesting point Towey found is that in an effort to update the information, no faith groups or disability rights advocates were consulted. I wonder why? Perhaps this is because this book goes against everything they have worked so hard to advance: An individuals right to life and dignity. Yet, how ironic that the only source listed in the new version as a resource on "advanced directives" is the Hemlock Society, which so conveniently has since been renamed to the sugar-coated "Compassion and Choices." I don't know how this group defines "compassion," but everything they have done to contribute to this book is far from compassionate. Now, the men and women who risk their lives are the TRUE beacons of compassion. I'd like to know if Dr. Pearlman and the members of this so-called "Compassion and Choices" group would volunteer to join the armed forces and risk their lives for a cause greater than self? I wonder how they would feel if they were in a nursing home or hospital, having someone guide them through the scenarios listed in the "death book"?

Many assume the "death book" will not be presented to a patient until they are elderly or disabled, which is bad enough, but did you know that just last month (July 2009), the VA directive according to Towey has instructed its primary care physicians to "raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to 'Your Life, Your Choices.' Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America's 24 million veterans deserve better." You betcha they do! These men and women are heroes and should be treated as such; instead, they are referred to a book on planning death. Shame on the VA! Shame on you, President Obama!

Just as Sarah Palin brought the discussion of the "death panels" to the forefront, I know it is just a matter of time before she discusses the "death book," and I encourage her to do so expediently, so that we can put an end to this horror. Sarah was so accurate when she said the following regarding the "death panel":

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care.... Such a system is downright evil."

The same classification can be used to described the "death book," for it too is evil! We have a president who says he wants veterans to have the best care possible, but how is this possible when he wants to cut the costs of care. When you cut the costs of care, you are reducing the value of the care itself. Towey concludes his heart-wrenching piece by writing the following:

"If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care, one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the Oval Office and pull the plug on 'Your Life, Your Choices.' He should make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens."

A thoughtful statement from a thoughtful man who values life. Our vets deserve the best care money can buy! Why would we want to put a price tag on the value of care they receive? Giving them the best care is the least we could do for these men and women, these TRUE American heroes who have fought so hard so that we may live a free and prosperous life full of endless possibilities. President Obama, if you respect our brave men and women as much as you claim to as their commander and chief, put an end to the use of "Your Life, Your Choices" by the VA NOW because this book does nothing but go against everything our brave men and women have fought so hard for.

(I'm a Conservative Girl with a Voice!!! Visit my blog and become a follower: http://conservativegirlwithavoice.blogspot.com Thanks)

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