Thoughts on the Passing of 2009

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 7 January 2010 0 Comments
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Sally and Jon from Washington, D.C., write:

Proposed health-care reform legislation included a provision that allows Medicare to pay for "end-of-life" counseling for seniors and their families who request it. The provision, which Sarah Palin erroneously described as "death panels" for seniors, nearly derailed President Obama's health-care initiative. Some Republicans still argue that the provision would ration health care for the elderly. Does end-of-life care prolong life or does it prolong suffering? Should it be part of health-care reform?


Dear Sally and Jon,

There is a paranoid quality about the health care debate. Much of it finds expression in the discussion about end-of-life counseling. Death is a fact of life just like birth. Our parents prepared for our births; it is essential that we prepare for our deaths. End-of-life counseling is about what extraordinary measures you want to have used to extend your life. Do you wish to be kept on a respirator indefinitely? Do you want a machine to keep your heart beating forever? What is the point between managing pain and destroying your ability to know those who love you best?

Death is not escapable. We embrace it like we embrace any other experience. Death gives life its passion. Death rings the bell on all procrastination. Only the immature, who pretend they will escape death, could possibly object to end-of-life counseling. Deliberate distortions like calling them "death panels" have so poisoned the debate that it borders on the nonsensical. Most of this we shall surely discover is produced and directed by the lobbyists from the insurance companies.

– John Shelby Spong




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