House reform provision stirs controversy over end-of-life decision making

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One provision of the House healthcare reform legislation has garnered criticism from New York state's former lieutenant governor. She argues it would encourage the premature deaths of the elderly as a cost-saving measure.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Thursday, Betsy McCaughey argues that the Advance Care Planning Consultation measure of the bill H.R. 3200 would "pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely" and "[counsel] seniors about cutting life short." She repeated these claims during a radio interview with former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, also a former senator from Tennessee.

The measure would have Medicare beneficiaries consult with an advance care planning practitioner every five years to discuss any and all end-of-life contingencies, according to the text of the legislation. These consultations would include: an explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; and an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a healthcare proxy.