Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, veered from his party’s orthodoxy on end-of-life care Friday, suggesting the nation cannot afford to provide every treatment and technology available for every single dying patient.
“We all want to live forever. We want everything done to help us,” he told health care reporters during a discussion of Medicare and its financial pressures. “And we cannot, no one can, do absolutely everything that modern technology makes possible for absolutely everyone ’til absolutely the very last day, the very last resort.”
He added that he understands the urge by families to push for what may be futile care. “It’s the most human thing in the world,” he said. “Your loved one is in desperate shape.” He said “we can try this thing that has almost no chance of working” but questioned whether it is worth it, especially given that “it’s going to cost an incredible amount of money.”
Many health care experts have voiced similar views, saying doctors and families need to do a better job at making choices at the end of life, but the subject has been politically taboo.
Gov. Daniels would not say what policies he would endorse, other than to say he would prefer that families make the decisions, rather than the government. He also said he favored means testing Medicare so that wealthier retirees get smaller government subsidies.
And he balked when asked whether Medicare should reimburse doctors for taking time to talk with patients about end-of-life care. It was this type of suggestion during the health care debate that led to the false charge that Democrats wanted government “death panels” for Medicare patients. The Obama administration recently backed off a preliminary decision to reimburse doctors for this work; many suspected politics were at work.
“I don’t have anything more to say,” he said. “I’ve said that it’s an issue we are going to have to wrestle with.”
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