Charlotte Allen has already noted (below) the  Washington Post article headlined “Birthplace of the ‘Death Panel’ Myth” that is featured on the newspaper’s front page today—it’s supposed to be a soothing read.  Like Charlotte, I put the paper down with the the distinct feeling that the death panels aren’t mythical.

Charlotte and I rarely comment on the same thing on the same day. But I feel very strongly about this, and so I am going to break the rule:  please read both of us on this subject.

The article is about a hospital system in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a town that, as Charlotte notes, “saves a bundle” on hospital costs through a system that sounds suspiciously like, well, death panels. (We both loved the line that La Cross frequently appears on  “best places to live” lists, and that it is also a great place to die. Thanks to hospital personnel who pull the plug to save $$$. But, hey, grandma has already given permission, so why not?)

It was the La Cross hospital system that was instrumental, according to te article, in inserting into the healthcare bill the provisions that led to those nasty rumors of about death panels.

But can you ever save money if folks will just do the decent thing and just die:

But locals say the city uses less health care in large part because of how people view the end of life. Some of this may be rooted in the down-to-earth sensibility of their German and Scandinavian forebears. (Hammes said his late mother, who had dementia, was a “pragmatic German” who thought that paying to keep herself alive was a “waste of her money.”)

Mostly, though, locals say it is because Gundersen and the town’s other hospital, Franciscan Skemp, have urged planning. “People here have their feet planted in the ground,” said Barbara Frank, a retired teacher. “They’re no-nonsense sorts of people, without a lot of illusion. That was the fertile soil upon which it was planted. But there’s no question it was helped by the two medical centers taking the lead and saying, ‘This is a good thing for you to do.’ ”

She and her husband, Donald, a retired train engineer, signed a directive 10 years ago, when they were in their 60s. “You increasingly realize that they’re not going to make an exception in your case. We all die, and we want to do so with the most dignity and most control,” she said. “It seemed a no-brainer. And it spares our children from making those decisions.”

Over time, the practice caught on. “People talk to people who talk to people. They say, ‘Do you have one?’ ‘Yeah,’ or ‘I have to get that done,’ ” said Ann Kotnour, a nurse whose 89-year-old mother is receiving care at home for her advanced Parkinson’s after signing a directive in 2001 saying she did not want aggressive measures taken.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with having self-initiated talks with your family about your end of life treatment (I want the form that says Whatever You Do, Don’t Pull the Plug—do they have one like that?).

But anyway you look at it, these folks are being urged not to be a burden on the system.

Imagine what these little chats will be like when the federal government is giving the doctor a fee to conduct them.

Glad the citoyens of La Crosse are “no-nonsense sorts of people, without a lot of illusion. That was the fertile soil upon which it [practice of money-saving end-of-life chats] was planted.”

I am not one of them.