Lately there's been a lot of talk about H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.
Sarah Palin claimed there were provisions for death panels to decide the fate of the elderly and the disabled. She said she was referring to Section 1233 of the bill, so I read it. It's a provision in the House legislation that would allow Medicare to reimburse someone who voluntarily sought counseling on how to set up a living will for the end of life.
Death panels? Puh-leeze.
Shortly after Arthur and I married in 1993, we decided to take care of all the pesky legal issues that go with blending lives and households. We drew up new wills. Arthur adopted my 7-year-old daughter. While we were there, probably funding the attorney's Lake Rabun weekend house, we decided to go ahead and fill out living wills, too. That wasn't a topic that had come up during our courtship and (at that point) brief marriage.
I knew what I wanted: no heroic measures, no feeding tubes, a do not resuscitate order and I wanted to be an organ donor.
When my mother died following days in a coma, my father asked that any viable organs be donated. Seven lives that we know of were changed, enhanced, maybe even lengthened because of her gift.
At the funeral, a distant relative, one who had figured only marginally in my mother's life, was vocal in her disapproval of the organ donation. Apparently it didn't fit with her theology. My father was able to silence her with just a few words: "It was what Lee wanted."
You can't argue with that.
Arthur surprised me. I assumed we'd feel the same way about end of life options. After all, we had so many of the same preferences: old rock and roll, coffee ice cream, Caribbean vacations.
But, no. I don't recall the exact wording, but his wishes involve the equivalent of not being pronounced dead until he's flat-lined for at least a half hour and having a doctor hold a mirror to his mouth. Say what you will about Arthur Glazer, he does not plan on going gentle into that good night.
Our preferences for funerals differ, too. I want to be cremated. He wants to be buried in traditional Jewish fashion, unenbalmed in a wooden coffin constructed with pegs, not nails. Beyond those specifications, it'll be up to our survivors to structure a service that gives them optimum comfort. We don't want to micromanage.
One of the most touching funeral services I ever attended was the one for my former neighbors, Ed and Gladys Thalen. Gladys had died following a yearslong struggle with injuries she'd received in an auto accident. Her husband, Ed, had died from cancer within hours of Gladys' passing. She was buried cradling the urn containing Ed's ashes in her arms.
The thing is, there's no point in having preferences if no one knows about them. Figure out what you want and then tell someone. Write it down.
A living will can be purchased online for less than the cost of a night at the movies. Local funeral homes can give you the form.
Once you fill it out, keep it close at hand. Make sure your family knows what you want. If you choose not to be resuscitated, medical personnel are going to need to be informed. Otherwise, they'll be charging the paddles.
Section 1233 strikes me as being a awkward attempt by the government to get us to do what we should be doing anyway.
Death is never a comfortable topic. No one likes to think about their own end. But there are worse things than planning for the inevitable. Like not planning.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.