In “Happier endings,” I ventured the opinion that patients with life-threatening conditions ought to talk sooner with their physicians about end-of-life issues. News comes that a Democratic congressman has introduced a bill to make such conversations easier.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) sat on the Portland city council in the 1990s when I lived in that city, and then became its congressman. He was and remains a progressive of the best sort. Oregon, of course, remains notable as one of the very few states that takes an enlightened official view toward end-of-life issues, specifically that the decision when and where to die ought to be made by patients, not insurance companies or doctors or hospitals.

Blumenauer’s Personalize Your Care Act would provide Medicare and Medicaid coverage for voluntary consultations about advance-care planning every five years or whenever a change in health status warrants one. “These consultations,” explains the congressman, “will ensure that an individual’s values and goals for care are identified, understood, and respected.” The bill also provides grants to states to establish or expand Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) programs, and ensures that an individual’s electronic health record is able to display his or her current advance directive and/or POLST form.

Anti-government paranoids to the contrary, such planning is the antithesis of “death panels.” Rather than leave such decisions in the hands of government, Blumenauer would place them more firmly in the hands of patients.

By the way, I am pleased to see that among the original co-sponsors for this bill is Evanston’s estimable Jan Schakowsky.

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