A new Medicare regulation set to come into effect on January 1, 2011 will cover voluntary discussions of end-of-life treatment during patients' annual visits to doctors, allowing them to plan out advance directives they can incorporate into their living wills, reports the New York Times.
The new regulation permits doctors to discuss how aggressively patients would like to be treated if they are no longer able to make their own healthcare decisions.
"Advance care planning improves end-of-life care and patient and family satisfaction and reduces stress, anxiety and depression in surviving relatives," wrote the administration in the preamble to the regulation.
The new regulation brings to fruition a provision that was dropped from the Obama administration's healthcare bill in March of this year amidst opposition from Republicans. Led by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and incoming House Speaker John Boehner, Republicans warned that the rule could create government "death panels" that would eventually lead to euthanasia of terminally ill patients.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 43,313,626 people were enrolled in the Medicare program as of July 2006.