60 Minutes on the Cost of Dying

Nov 23, 2009 | 0 comments

If you missed last night’s 60 Minutes story on the cost of dying, I recommend you visit their web site to see the story and all the web extras on this page.

Steve Kroft introduced the piece saying, “Every medical study ever conducted has concluded that 100 percent of all Americans will eventually die. This comes as no great surprise, but the amount of money being spent at the very end of people’s lives probably will. Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives – that’s more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education”

“And it has been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government with few or no questions asked.  You might think this would be an obvious thing for Congress and the president to address as they try to reform health care. But what used to be a bipartisan issue has become a politically explosive one – a perfect example of the costs that threaten to bankrupt the country and how hard it’s going to be to rein them in.”

Dr. Ira Byock, who spoke at the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference this spring, was featured in the piece.

“Families cannot imagine there could be anything worse than their loved one dying. But in fact, there are things worse. Most generally, it’s having someone you love die badly,” Byock said.

Asked what he means by “die badly,” Byock told Kroft, “Dying suffering. Dying connected to machines. I mean, denial of death at some point becomes a delusion, and we start acting in ways that make no sense whatsoever. And I think that’s collectively what we’re doing.”

This is a very important story that we all need to think about.

A Good Goodbye