Dannion Brinkley, the world’s most famous near death survivor (who strongly supports hospice work) once made the statement that, “In the United States we torture our old people to death” (subscribers can still listen to this extraordinary Dreamland show). This means the cost savings from rationing health care may come from “procedures” that are currently provided at the end of life, which are neither wanted nor useful, but provided out of habit, as a result of financial incentives, or through our failure to accept that death is a natural end to life.

Ethicist Lois L. Shepherd urges us to focus more on responsibilities to care and respect patients than on their “right to life” or “right to die.” She says, “Terry Schiavo’s case was special because there was such a split between her husband and parents about what should be done. This split allowed politicians to exploit the case and make it stand in for something else, for the protection of all vulnerable human life: In other words, fetuses and embryos. The case was as much about abortion and embryonic stem cell research as it was about end-of-life decision making.”

Shepherd is concerned that all too often “permanently vegetative individuals are kept alive for family members or care givers or society, not for themselves. Keeping these people alive for years when there is no hope for recovery is an inappropriate instrumental use of them.”

Washington politicians like to reduce complex topics down to a few sound bites as a way of gaining power for their constituents (which in this case include insurance and drug companies), but we cannot deny the reality that ancient cultures knew so well. If you believe in this too, help us stand up for the truth: Subscribe today! And please click on the “donate” tab on our homepage too.

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