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By Judy Thomas, JD, Executive Director
Coalition for Compassionate Care of California

Re-blogged from California Healthline in response to “Should palliative care be reformed?

California Healthline

When it comes to public policy around end-of-life care, state and federal policymakers have been in very different places. At the federal level, good end-of-life care became associated with “death panels” and turned the topic into a political “third rail.” Here in California, the public barely noticed the federal rhetoric, so our state policymakers never “went dark” on the issue.

This year, a number of state legislators introduced end-of-life related legislation. Proposals ranged from providing people with information, to establishing registries for treatment wishes, to making palliative care more available.

But the one policymaker who has had the biggest impact in California in the last few years is Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Dooley recognized that good end-of-life care is part of “health across the life span.” She put end-of-life care on par with both childhood health issues and chronic conditions. Through Let’s Get Healthy California and the California State Innovation Model (Cal SIM), Dooley has made it safe for other state policymakers to address the topic.

The changing tide at the federal level is simply a reflection of the fact that dealing with end-of-life policy issues is inevitable. It is part of the natural evolution of our health care system and aging society.

Devoting ever increasing resources and expertise focused on smaller and smaller things is a hallmark of our health system. Through this approach we have developed vast and extensive scientific knowledge. At some point, however, this approach exceeds its financial viability. And even more importantly, fails to meet needs of many patients, which is to live their fullest life possible. Palliative care looks at people holistically to help them live their lives.

As more and more of us grow older, or have loved ones who are older, end-of-life care becomes a topic that’s on our minds and for which we need positive, healthy models.

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