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Normally our pages do not involve roll play. This one does because it makes clear the reason for the controversy over the "death book." It has been released for use by the Veterans Administration to counsel veterans in making end-of-life decisions. The book itself makes no mention of veterans or active duty soldiers, but it could be used for either. It could also be used to guide senior citizens during the five-year reviews that would be authorized under section 1233 of HR 3200, a U.S. House version of the so called "health care reform" legislation.
Imagine that you are a wounded 23-year-old soldier who has just arrived at Walter Reed Hospital from Iraq. You were a passenger in a Humvee when a roadside bomb went off just outside your door. The bomb blew off both of your legs, your thumb and index finger on your right hand were badly mangled and the right side of your face was damaged and burned. There was considerable damage to the soft tissue on your right arm as well.
Your parents were notified and they arrived at Walter Reed just hours after you did. They brought along your fiance as well. You saw the look of horror when they saw what the bomb did to their handsome young son. Your dad was the first to speak. "Son, don't you worry about a thing. We are going to get through this together," he assures you. Through her tears, your mom says, "Your dad is right—we will be with you all the way. When you get out of the hospital, we will fix up your old bedroom and you can stay with us as long as needed until you get back on your feet."
Your fiance is sobbing, her hands covering her face. She manages to say that she loves you but hangs back from your bedside and leaves that spot to your parents. The next day she returns home and sends a letter with your parents saying she will cancel the plans you had for a spring wedding. She adds that she is having a hard time dealing with all that has happened to you and needs some time to work it through. She is not sure about her future.
The following day a doctor comes to see you. He says that it will take several more surgeries to get your body in shape to handle prosthetic legs. Your hand also needs some work to make it as useful as possible. He estimates it could take a year of rehab to bring you back to some degree of normalcy. Skin grafts and a prosthetic ear will help your appearance.
He says because all surgeries entail some risk, he needs some direction from you as to your wishes for medical care. He wants you to complete an advance directive that expresses what care you want and what care you don't want. He hands you a book entitled, "Your Life, Your Choices." He says you should read it through and that he will be back tomorrow to complete a checklist that will guide his treatment of your case.
This is a terrible scenario but not uncommon. Most disabled vets will face much of the above when they get home.
With that scenario in mind, read the book as if you were the soldier. Mark the worksheet as you think this soldier might.
There is an excellent background of the "death book" at the Wall Street Journal. It sheds some light on its origin and why there is concern over it lately.
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