The political smear has been around since ancient times. But the reach of the Internet, the perniciousness of Fox News and a new political culture have elevated the punch of the smear.

That combination killed something of great value this year when Sarah Palin created a lie called “death panels.” The almost one-term governor of Alaska did the hit job on a proposal that was inserted into the Health Care legislation by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland.

Anyone who deals with health care involving middle-aged to older patients will tell you that end of life decisions are difficult for patients and families. That is why advance directives matter. And that’s why Congressman Blumenauer proposed such language for health care legislation.

The New York Times reported last Sunday that the advance directive language that was removed from the Health Reform bill is now alive as a proposed Medicare regulation, “Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.”

While this Medicare regulation is aimed at physicians, lawyers often pose the question of an advance directive to their clients in the process of estate planning.

Many assisted-living residences require that residents complete an advanced directive.

A person without an advance directive is doing his spouse and children no favor. End-of-life decisions are difficult enough, and they become especially so if there is no clear written statement from the person whose life is ebbing.

The Times reported that a national organization of hospice care providers urged the Obama administration to cover end-of-life planning as a service offered under the Medicare wellness benefit.

Ms. Palin will assuredly revive the death panel lie and the new House Speaker John Boehner will likely pitch in. But their smear will do no good for average Americans whose loved ones are facing tough end-of-life choices.

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