Despite the persistent infection, Dad was discharged because his temperature fell one-tenth of one point below the Medicare guideline for hospitalization. I begged the doctor to let him stay, citing his Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage. The doctor insisted that Medicare ruled and that my father was safer outside of the hospital where he would be less likely to contract a secondary infection.

I did what most people do; I trusted the authoritative person in the white coat. It was a fatal mistake. The lingering infection led to complications that killed him a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, my father’s story is not unusual. The elderly are sometimes euthanized by withholding care and even nourishment. A caregiver in a nursing home recently told me the story of a woman with Alzheimer’s whose daughter signed an order forbidding the staff from feeding her. This woman still enjoyed walking the halls of the home and attending activities, but her disease robbed her of some functions, including the ability to eat on her own. She starved to death–a slow horrible death.