More on Isakson and End-of-Life Counseling
Sen. Johnny Isakson's office is not happy that Isakson is being used to rebut attacks on the "end-of-life counseling" provision in the House's health-care reform bill. "I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies,” reads the press release.
In our conversation yesterday, it was Isakson himself who brought up the House bill. To go back to the tape, I asked Isakson how we'd ended up in a conversation about euthanasia. I didn't mention any of the specific bills or amendments. He replied:
I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's Web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.
That is not to suggest that he supports the House bill in general, or even the bill passed by the Senate Health Committee. But he was pretty specific in trying to ratchet down the misinterpretations of the House's end-of-life counseling section.
And, given Isakson's record, there's plenty of reason for that. The specific amendment Isakson offered in the Health Committee is substantially different than what's in the House health-care reform bill. But the 2007 Medicare End-of-Life Care Planning Act, which Isakson co-sponsored, is actually very similar to the section on end-of-life planning in the House bill. And Isakson wasn't the only Republican on the legislation.
All of these amendments and provisions attempt to do the same thing, albeit in slightly different ways: Expand Medicare's coverage of voluntary end-of-life counseling. Encouraging Medicare to cover end-of-life planning just isn't a partisan issue. Nor is it an effort to make anyone shuffle off the mortal coil before they're ready. It's an attempt, as Isakson explained yesterday, to ensure that individuals make their own decisions when they're of sound mind and body, rather than leaving those questions to grieving spouses, doctors who fear a malpractice lawsuit or accountants. It's a good policy, and all the legislators supporting it deserve praise for trying to encourage an adult conversation about death. It's a shame that it's suddenly become polarized.
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