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Public Statements

End-of-Life Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, Monday in the blink of an eye, hundreds of people at the Boston Marathon were faced with an awful decision. None of them woke up that morning expecting they, or a loved one, was going to need emergency care in a life-threatening situation. We tend to think of end-of-life care as the province of a terminally ill person, often elderly, but that's just one circumstance, and not necessarily the most common.

The decisions need to be made instantly about whether to amputate a limb, and a decision must be made that moment. If a person is in shock or unconscious, who helps make that decision for them?

Last week, I had two more circumstances where people in my life were faced with totally unexpected life-threatening circumstances that brought these questions into sharp perspective. Anybody, anywhere, any time. How do we make sure that these decisions, which are made every day in every State in virtually every city, are made in accordance with the best interest and wishes of the patient and the patient's family?

I've been working for the last 5 years for the Federal Government to be a better partner with families. It's called end-of-life care, and the Federal Government, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress are missing in action. Medicare will spend billions of dollars on the most expensive, invasive, painful, and in some cases, if not unnecessary, at least questionable care, often regardless of the wishes of the patient and their family. Yet Medicare won't pay $100 or $200 for that medical professional to have a conversation with the patient and their family.

It's time for us to step up. We need to make sure that we clear up the questions in everyone's minds about the choices, the consequences, what the patient and the family want, and most critically, make sure those wishes are honored. Like my friend, whose heart stopped this weekend, totally unexpectedly, we don't know when or where a loved one will be in this position. But there's no excuse we don't do everything we can to help families and encourage everyone that is close to us, that works with us, to take their own steps to identify who speaks for them when they can't, and what they want to happen.

This is personal for me. I had these jarring reminders that one of the greatest gifts each of us can give our families is to have a thoughtful and frank discussion about what our wishes would be for medical care if we're unable to suddenly make those decisions. It's also one of the greatest gifts that this Congress can make to the people we represent by doing our job so that the Federal Government is a better partner in making sure those conversations are possible.

Please cosponsor our bipartisan Personalize Your Care Act, H.R. 1173, and then sit down and have this conversation with your family. It's not always the easiest, but it is far better than making your loved ones guess and feel guilty.

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