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Martha MacLeod, Oakes, N.D., Published September 27 2013

Letter: Appreciated column on dying

Thank you for printing Katy Butler’s “Why few will die at home” on the Sept. 23 Opinion page. I have watched many of our elderly die in misery because they think they have to take advantage of all that Medicare offers. So in their last year or two of life, they get surgery, chemo, radiation, amputations and more. Then they are in pain, traumatized and hospitalized. Is that beneficial preparation for the world to come? Our medicine is wonderful when used appropriately. Along with Butler, I ask: Is end of life the time to use it?

The Hospice of the Red River Valley could do much more if it was given funds to help the elderly and their families face the physical and spiritual challenge of death with grace and peace. Butler calls for a grass-roots movement to pressure Medicare to change its reimbursement structure to focus on palliative care to alleviate suffering, improve quality of life and give the entire family comfort.

According to Butler, Medicare spends one-fourth of its $551 billion annual budget on medical treatment for the last year of life. For what? Do invasive cardiology procedures and oncology really create a quality end-of-life experience? Let’s ask Medicare to cover hospice for those like me who choose to have a meaningful hour of death.