The town's biggest hospital, Gundersen Lutheran, has long been a pioneer in ensuring that the care provided to patients in their final months complies with their wishes. More recently, it has taken the lead in seeking to have Medicare compensate physicians for advising patients on end-of-life planning.
The hospital got its wish this spring when House Democrats inserted that provision into their health-care reform bill -- only to see former Alaska governor Sarah Palin seize on it as she warned about "death panels" that would deny care to the elderly and the disabled. Despite widespread debunking, those warnings have led lawmakers to say they will drop the provision.
"It's really distressing," hospital official Bud Hammes said. "These things need to be addressed."
The way certain politicians have preyed upon people's fear of death is just infuriating.
[Full disclosure note: my dad practiced cardiology at Gundersen for many years].