The Long Goodbye

For five months, I was my parents' death panel. And where the costly chaos of Medicare failed, a team of salaried doctors and nurses offered a better way

Courtesy Joe Klein

The phone call came on a cloudy morning in Iowa. I was interviewing Senator Chuck Grassley in his farm kitchen, surrounded by a sea of corn. Mom was back in the hospital again. She had pneumonia. She wasn't eating. "If we don't put in a feeding tube," my mother's internist told me, "she won't survive on her own."

Mom had always been vehement about how she wanted to go. "Just pull the plug. Let me die," she would say, with more than a hint of melodrama. "I don't want to be a vegetable." But was she a vegetable now? She had...

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