The High Cost of Dying in the 21st Century

Sep 28, 2012

It’s no secret that health care in this country costs a lot. That’s especially true at the end of life. A new study indicates a quarter of Medicare recipients exhaust their entire savings and more on out-of-pocket health care expenses during the last five years of their lives.

This goes along with previous numbers that have shown that the last few years of life are the most expensive, medically speaking.

Credit By Boris Rasin, via Flickr

But in this country, talking about end of life costs is mired in politics. As part of the Affordable Care Act, one of the most contentious debates was over the proposal that would allow doctors who had conversations with their patients about end-of-life care options to be reimbursed for the counseling.

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin infamously said the law was creating "death panels" that would ration health care.

In the ensuing furor, Dr. Art Derse, says an opportunity was lost to have a rational conversation about the costs of health care as we come to the end of our lives. He tells Lake Effect's Stephanie Lecci that it's a conversation we need to have.

Derse is the director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Medical College of Wisconsin. We talked with him as part of our series on death and dying in the 21st century.