Living Will Hyperbole Is Disingenuous to American Elders

In the so-called “town hall” meetings debating the Obama Administration’s controversial health care reform plan, shrill cries of “euthanizing old people” to characterize potentially productive doctor-patient conversations concerning end-of-life issues have distorted the discourse and may cause real harm.

The debate about health care reform, especially as it pertains to end-of-life issues, is becoming increasingly contentious in so-called “town hall” meetings across America. Various political luminaries such as former Vice-Presidential candidate and resigned Alaska governor Sarah Palin have been saying some things bristling with emotionally charged phrases. Palin released the following statement on her FaceBook page:

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down’s 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,” Palin says, “Such a system is downright evil.” Palin continued, “Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.” Palin claimed that the Orwellian Obama plan would surreptitiously herd elder Americans into euthanasia and assisted suicide via rationing of medical treatment.

But does President Obama’s health care reform initiative really do what she claims? In fact, the plan, although controversial, encourages potentially productive doctor-patient conversations concerning end-of-life issues which may indeed be relevant to most anyone. The proposal’s language was designed to encourage doctor-patient conversations, but it was taken out of context and distorted beyond recognition for political advantage. In fact, a Living Will is good for individuals, and good for the country. It gives people essential choices about how they choose to end their days. It puts Americans in control of their destiny. Most attorneys already discuss these issues with their clients when preparing estate plans. Doctors often have these discussions now with their patients. The proposed health care reform bill will now enable the doctor to be paid for spending the time to help patients think through these important decisions. When the President’s mere mention of living wills used as a fear tactic to senselessly frighten our elders , the tactic is not only dangerously disingenuous, but may actually cause real harm. It may discourage essential conversations between doctor and patient. Proactive Elder Law attorneys continue to encourage their clients to create a Living Will or an Advance Health Care Directive – before it’s too late. Under the plan, doctors and their patients will now be encouraged to have this conversation, as well.

Gene Osofsky is an East Bay elder law attorney in California. Gene Osofsky specializes in Medi-Cal planning, wills, probate, trusts, nursing home issues, special needs planning, and disability planning. To learn more about East Bay elder law lawyers, East Bay elder law attorney, Medi-Cal planning, Medi-Cal planning lawyers and The Law Offices of Osofsky & Osofsky, visit