NBC Touts Death Panels as Way to Keep Medical Costs Down

During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today about an elderly woman being denied CPR at an assisted living facility and later dying, pundit Donny Deutsch immediately worried about the health care expense that may have been incurred if the woman had lived: "It's obviously a very sad story, but it really brings up, I think, a larger issue that we've got to get our arms around, that 25% of the health care costs are against people in their last year of their life, the 4 or 5% of people, keeping people alive." [Watch the video after the jump]

Deutsch suggested it was time to shift priorities: "..we maybe need to give hard looks that some of the procedures being done to extend lives six weeks, eight weeks, ten weeks, that maybe that money could go to saving little babies." NBC chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman agreed: "I hope this a national conversation about death and dying." Moments later, she demanded that there be no investigation into the death of the 87-year-old denied CPR: "I'm sorry, I hope this is one time where the lawyers and the police stay the hell out of it."

Only attorney Star Jones objected: "I'm talking CPR, I am not talking about putting her on a respirator....Hit a chest for God's sake."


Here is a full transcript of the March 5 segment:

8:10AM

MATT LAUER: Back now at 8:10 with Today's Professionals. Star Jones, Donny Deutsch, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman are here to tackle the stories that have you talking. Guys, good morning. Ladies, good morning.  

First one we talked about yesterday on the show, we'll call it "Do Nothing." The nurse at an assisted living facility out in California calls 911. A patient at that facility, in the independent care unit, not breathing, unconscious. And so she calls 911. The 911 operator says to her, "Start performing CPR." When the nurse informs her she's not allowed to do that, the 911 operator starts dramatically asking for assistance. Listen.

911 OPERATOR: She's gonna die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?

GLENWOOD GARDENS NURSE: I understand. I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR...
 
911: I will instruct them...is there anyone there who's willing...

NURSE: I cannot do that.

911: Okay. I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient.

NURSE: I am...

LAUER: Alright, so the patient, 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless unconscious. The nurse says because she's in the independent care unit she's only allowed to call for medical assistance not offer medical assistance. Nancy, take me through this. How common is this?

SNYDERMAN: I don't know that the nurse placed the 911 call. State by state, institution by institution, the laws are different. The children have not said, "My mother was treated poorly." So I just want to take this-

LAUER: No. They say they are satisfied with her level of care.

SNYDERMAN: Which tells me that this 87-year-old woman might have had an understanding with her children that she did not want heroics and that nurse in that moment knew that, even if she had resuscitated her, she might have died at a later time in the hospital. And she made-

LAUER: She did pass away at the hospital. We know that.

SNYDERMAN: And that she made that call. So I want to defend the nurses who make those decisions in that moment, as horrific as it seems.

LAUER: Donny, Star, weigh in here.

JONES: It's one thing to make the decision because she had information about maybe a DNR. It's another thing to make the decision because there's a employment policy. Was she evaluating this woman in the light of who she is as a nurse or evaluating her in light of 'I don't want to lose my job'?

LAUER: Or potential lawsuit.

JONES: Well, the Good Samaritan laws would have protected her against a lawsuit and the human being laws should protect her against anything else.

DEUTSCH: It's obviously a very sad story, but it really brings up, I think, a larger issue that we've got to get our arms around, that 25% of the health care costs are against people in their last year of their life, the 4 or 5% of people, keeping people alive. Now of course, if it's my mom and dad, I want to do the same, but we maybe need to give hard looks that some of the procedures being done to extend lives six weeks, eight weeks, ten weeks, that maybe that money could go to saving little babies.

SNYDERMAN: I hope this a national conversation about death and dying.

DEUTSCH: So it's a very difficult conversation.

JONES: I'm talking CPR, I am not talking about putting her on a respirator.

SNYDERMAN: But you know what?

JONES: Hit a chest for God's sake.

SNYDERMAN: I'm sorry, I hope this is one time where the lawyers and the police stay the hell out of it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC