Sponsors stunned by end-of-life ruckus

Aug. 18, 2009 at 11:26 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Authors of the end-of-life counseling language in the U.S. House's healthcare reform bill say they're stunned at the brouhaha the provision has created.

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a heart surgeon and a co-sponsor of the counseling language, said the legislation's intent was to promote discussions between doctors and their patients about end-of-life issues, USA Today reported Tuesday. The provision would allow Medicare to reimburse doctors for their time in such counseling sessions, Boustany said.

But opponents to the measure, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have characterized it as laying the groundwork for a "death panel" to cut off medical care for elderly citizens.

Now, Boustany says proponents may have to forgo the issue and reconsider it "at some point when the temperature had cooled down."

"Frankly, this thing got really out of hand," he told USA Today.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., another sponsor, said he was surprised at the tenor of the debate.

"It's just beyond bizarre," he said. "At every point along the process, I got broad agreement from Democrats and Republicans alike."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the healthcare debate, said recently during an Iowa healthcare town hall that the federal government shouldn't have a program "that determines if you're going to pull the plug on Grandma."

He since said he believes end-of-life directives were "a good idea," but within the context of the House bill's cost-cutting efforts, fears about such counseling are justified.

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