Debate Over Department of Veterans Affairs' "Death Book"
Only Strengthens Reasons for Concern
By Dave Andrusko
"If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He 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." From "The Death Book for Veterans," by Jim Towey, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal August 19, 2009.
Although Jim Towey's column has stirred the proverbial hornet's nest, my hunch is that not enough people are aware of the growing controversy over what is afoot at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to Towey (the one-time director of President George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives, among other things), the VA has brought back to life a death initiative into which Bush tried to drive a stake back in 2007. All this, needless to say, is being pooh-poohed by the Obama Administration.
Towey's Wall Street Journal piece (available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358590107981718.html) charges that a 52-page "hurry up and die" workbook/primer titled Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical Decisions "presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political 'push poll.' For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be 'not worth living.'"
This "hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable," Towey writes. "Worse, a July 2009 VA directive instructs 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."
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