On August 18 the Wall Street Journal published an op ed Jim Towey, president of St. Vincent College, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and author of Five Wishes, the most widely used living will template in the country.
Towey’s piece has gotten much attention. The piece begins:
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 Dept. of Veterans Affairs. 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….
Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”
Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.
“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.”…
I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update “Your Life, Your Choices” between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as “Compassion and Choices”).
Recall Compassion and Choices is the group pushing the infamous Section 1233 of a House version of Obamacare, which mandates doctors initiate end-of-life conversations with older patients.
A click on the link for “Your Life, Your Choices” at the VA website indicates the document is currently under revision. Only the old version is posted.