New Jersey State Senator (and former Governor) Richard Codey has proposed that NJ Medicaid reimburse doctors and nurses for advanced care planning. That is, meeting with a patient to discuss what sort of medical treatment she wants at the end of her life, and setting forth those preferences in legal and medical documents like advanced healthcare directives and POLST orders.
Sen. Codey also introduced a resolution urging the federal government to allow Medicare to reimburse medical professionals nation-wide for advanced care planning. That idea was initially proposed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, but was nixed when political figures began heralding the creation of “death panels.”
In my opinion, this proposal should be welcome to anyone who thinks that Americans should have more control over how they die. Most people say they want to die peaceful and comfortable deaths, in their homes surrounded by family. Yet far too many people die protracted deaths in hospitals, hooked up to life support, after undergoing multiple surgeries with little chance of success. And despite medical advances and a push for hospice, a recent study by the Institute of Medicine shows that end-of-life suffering has become more common in the past decade, not less.
Healthcare directives, POLST orders and other advanced care planning allow patients to state whether they would want artificial life support, heroic surgeries, palliative care, etc., so that medical professionals can follow these instructions if the patient cannot communicate. Hopefully by putting more control into patients’ hands, the reality of end-of-life care will become more in line with what people say they want for themselves.
It is hard to imagine a moment in life more intimate than its end. Patients should be able to set forth their wishes for end of life care, and know that those wishes will be honored.