In the midst of the increasingly toxic healthcare debate—if it can even be called a debate any more—I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about my own eventual demise. I've come to the conclusion that I am either going to A) suffer a massive stroke at an early-ish age, B) live to be old and lose my way to the grocery store or C) get hit by a bus on the way to work tomorrow, which would be utter injustice since it would make all this brow-furrowed contemplation a complete waste of time. While choice C isn't statistically probable, options A and B come with odds worthy of doubling down.
It just so happens, my liver turns every single thing I ingest—pâté or iceberg lettuce, same diff—into cholesterol. An over-abundance of the glop is the genetic parting gift from my father, a sort of consolation prize to me: Sorry I couldn't be there for ya kid, but here's a little something to help you remember your y-chromosome donor. Available medications disintegrate my muscles, meaning I suffer from untreatable hypercholesterolemia. Yes, I'm the fit-looking lady in the Lipitor commercial who knocks over an entire row of surfboards after proudly planting her own in the sand.
And golly! Wouldn't you know it, but a study published last week in the journal Dementia & Geriatrics Cognitive Disorders describes a link between elevated cholesterol levels in mid-life and the onset of Alzheimer's in the sunset years. Having a close relative with the illness—like, say, a father for instance—further increases the risk.
Oh joy, I thought as I read about having as much as a 66-percent greater chance of developing Alzheimer's in my 70s (assuming A or C do not take me out first). Not only will I be uninsurable should I leave my day job to strike out on the freelance circuit like I want to do, but there's a good chance my kid will eventually spoon-feed me with one hand and wipe my butt with her other.
And to this I say: Bring on the death panels—or, at the very fucking least, guaranteed access to counseling as it pertains to end-of-life care.
I know death is not a cotton-candy-and-vanilla-ice-cream subject. It's so unpalatable a topic that I'm convinced it's why HBO's Six Feet Under got so severely snubbed year after year during awards season.
Many Americans reject the finality of death so severely that they don't want to think about it, let alone watch a show about it. Certainly, the terminally ill shouldn't be allowed to discuss it with their doctors. So the ideologues—backed, let's not forget, by the insurance and pharma industries—ginned up a lie so heinous and so effective that the Senate Finance Committee is now capitulating on the end-of-life provision, which will be excluded from the Senate version of the bill. Don't you just love the way the majority—Helloooooh! Majority!!!—Democrats roll right over, spread their cheeks and offer their collective chocolate starfish in surrender?
“You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a man with unlimited access to this country's best healthcare thanks to his job title. “You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out.” To begin to deconstruct everything wrong with these comments requires a whole 'nother column.
But Amy Sullivan of Time takes him to task. She goes for the jugular after pointing out that Grassley (and John Boehner, too) voted in favor of funding counseling for end-of-life issues in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill: “So either Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before turning against them now—or they're lying about end-of-life counseling in order to frighten the bejeezus out of their fellow citizens and defeat health reform by any means necessary.”
Some of our more obtuse fellow citizens—whose siren call is the drum beat of AM radio and Kathie Lee Gifford albums—have extremely vulnerable bejeezuses, and the fundies play to this. Rather than have a reasonable discussion like adult humans, adult monsters like Glenn Beck hone in on the hysteria gene shared amongst their audience members. Using just the right combo of word-twist, stage prop and wild-eyed indignation, they easily convert their flock of sheeple into mobs of zombies and borderline terrorists, who bring their misplaced ire and loaded weapons into civil discourse. History, if any of them cared to look at it, would show that this combo does not bode well.
These folks are already behind the 8-ball when it comes to intellect. Take, for instance, blogger John Swift, who describes himself as “a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues.” I was happy to stumble across his blog on a Google search because it gave me a giggle, followed by a disturbing pause: He may be dim, but whip up a million Swifts and suddenly people are dropping loaded guns on the floor at town-hall meetings.
Faster than you can spot the irony in the panicked howls of Keep government out of my Medicare! coming from the blue-hair set, Democrats have tucked tail between their legs. This is swift-boating all over again, for fuck's sake, not rocket science! I want my goddamned death panels! And I want them to decide Glenn Beck's fate. And Charles Grassley's. And John Boehner's. And that vile woman from Alaska whom I refuse to name's fate, too. Oh, and Dick Cheney's. I'm officially volunteering to sit on that panel.
Of course, by the time all this health reform is sufficiently smothered, bludgeoned and water-boarded until it's unrecognizable, I may have already succumbed to Death Option D, which I failed to mention before. When all is said and done, I may just die of outrage combined with extreme and stunning disappointment.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.