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Capitol Hill Briefing Discussion on End of Life Planning Becomes Personal for Several Members of Congress

Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017 12:49 PM

The Patient Choice and Quality Care Act of 2017 was announced during a Capitol Hill briefing which featured several members of Congress talking about their personal experiences with advanced illness and end of life care.

The Act results from joining the work of several members of Congress in both chambers and once the bill is presented, it will emerge as both bicameral and bipartisan. During the briefing, speakers discussed the need to have “The Conversation,” a talk with loved ones on how to deal with the final months, weeks and days of a person’s life.

During the event, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Phil Roe, MD (R-TN all spoke and sponsored the legislation. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), possibly Congress’ primary supporter on this issue, had to attend a meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee and sent Elizabeth Falcone, his Legislative Director, in his place.

Rep. Blumenauer spoke first, emphasizing both the importance of end of life planning, but also the fact that it is not only for the elderly and seriously ill. Terrible accidents and tragedies happen all the time, said Rep. Blumenauer, who also noted that almost nobody who attended the Boston Marathon in 2013 imagined a terror attack.

Rep. Roe, a medical doctor, spoke about how he went through his father’s end of life care. “End of life decisions are tough,” said Rep. Roe, stressing that we “need to do everything we can to prepare for the end of life.”

“This work is extremely close to me,” said Senator Capito, mentioning that both her parents utilized hospice care. “People need that caring, helping hand in these moments,” said Senator Capito.

Senator Capito brought up Senator Warner’s mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, as the person who asked her to help him on this issue. Warner’s Legislative Director, Elizabeth Falcone, said the Senator is anticipating broad and bipartisan support for the bill. She praised the new name for the legislation and explained the need for an interdisciplinary approach so that each part of a patient’s end of life care is appropriate, wanted and complementary to the others.

The Act, said Ms. Falcone, will “give patients and practitioners the ability to make better decisions.”

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