CALPERS: ENDORSES ECHO END-OF-LIFE CARE GUIDELINES
Saying the wishes of dying patients are sometimes ignored,This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
the California Public Employees' Retirement System is calling on
doctors, hospitals and health plans for more compassionate and
humane care for the terminally ill. The CalPERS Board of
Administration yesterday endorsed the end-of-life recommendations
put forth by the ECHO project, a three-year project coordinated
by the Sacramento Healthcare Division. The recommendations are
the result of a broad-based, nonprofit commission consisting of
health care workers, patients, attorneys, consumer groups and
senior citizens. CalPERS will disseminate the guidelines to more
than one million members and will urge the HMOs with which it
contracts to follow the guidelines. Kurato Shimada, chair of the
CalPERS Health Benefits Committee, said, "The ECHO
recommendations support the right of terminally ill patients to
die in comfort, peace and dignity. It is a right we all deserve
as human beings."
The ECHO recommendations say patients should be allowed to
exercise their legal right to refuse treatment, particularly when
the treatment is invasive, dehumanizing and expensive, when the
treatment cannot cure or save the life of the patient, and when
it would leave the patient and the family impoverished from
needless medical expenses. Should a patient refuse treatment,
hospitals and health plans should switch from "cure-oriented"
care to "comfort care" that focuses on less-invasive procedures
which can make the patient more comfortable and could help
preserve dignity (click here to see the complete guidelines).
DEATH WITH DIGNITY
ECHO spokesperson Marjorie Ginsburg said that even when
dying patients and family members request an end to heroic
efforts to prolong life, those directives are too often ignored.
She noted that the ECHO guidelines are not connected with
physician-assisted suicide, calling it a totally separate issue.
Margaret Stanley, CalPERS Health Benefits Administrator, said,
"The ECHO recommendations are in keeping with CalPERS long-
standing emphasis on patient-focused care -- our determination to
be a powerful and effective advocate for patients' rights and
human treatment" (CalPERS release, 11/19).