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Laura Vecsey's Blog

Laura Vecsey's Blog

Middle Ground

End-of-life care pamphlet controversy prompts Sestak to criticize Specter

Joe Sestak is taking issue with Arlen Specter’s call for a Senate hearing on a booklet used by the Veterans Administration for end-of-life advice for critically ill veterans.

The booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choice,” and was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article by Jim Towey, who directed the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives under George W. Bush. Towey, along with Specter, appeared on Fox News last week, where he discussed the VA pamphlet.

Specter, who said he has not read the pamphlet, issued a press release Monday also calling on the department to consider suspending use of the pamphlet.

“There is an issue as to whether the VA document inappropriately pressures disabled veterans who forgo critical care by subtly urging them on end-of-life decisions,” Senator Specter wrote.

VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts told The Washington Post that the booklet “is designed to help veterans deal with excruciating questions about what kind of health care they would like to receive if they are unable to make decisions for themselves.”

That would seem to bolster Sestak’s assertion today that Specter has over-reacted to Towey’s assertions.

“As a Veteran, I read with deep concern an editorial entitled ‘The Death Book for Veterans,’ which accuses the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of deliberately sending Veterans a ‘hurry-up-and-die message’ with a pamphlet on living wills and end-of-life care,” Sestak said.

“Anyone may criticize — and, indeed, suggest improvements to the pamphlet — but to seriously allege that an honest effort by the VA that sincerely helps families plan for the most difficult emotional experience of their lives is a ‘death book’ is counter to the public’s and Veterans’ interest,” Sestak said.

“This is the same kind of sensationalized rhetoric and misleading accusations behind the misinformation on ‘death panels’ in the health care reform debate, and I am disappointed that Arlen Specter would lend credence to this insincere rhetoric by calling for a Senate hearing without, by his own admission, even reading the pamphlet.”

The pamphlet is currently being revised, according to the VA, but for the past week, “Your Life, Your Choice,” has been at the center of debate, with conservatives calling it the military’s equivalent to “death panels.”

August 25, 2009 at 10:23 pm

--Laura Vecsey

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