Profile: Madelyn Dunham
Madelyn Dunham was a participant or observer in the following events:
President Obama, in a televised “town hall” event held in the White House to discuss health care reform, suggests that one way to trim medical costs might be to cease performing expensive and futile treatments—“extraordinary measures”—on terminally ill patients who do not want such interventions and would not benefit from them. Currently, doctors who have no particular instructions will perform “extraordinary measures” to stave off a terminally ill patient’s death, even for a matter of hours, no matter how intrusive or expensive the procedure. Obama tells his listeners that families need better information so they don’t unthinkingly approve “additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care.” In some instances, he says, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” He notes the experience of his recently deceased grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than nine months to live. When she broke her hip, she and her family had to decide whether to put her through a long, expensive, and painful hip-replacement procedure. “[A]nd the question was, does she get hip replacement surgery, even though she was fragile enough they were not sure how long she would last?” he says. [Los Angeles Times, 6/25/2009] Obama is not advocating that life-extending treatments be forcibly denied to terminally ill or elderly patients (see July 23, 2009 and July 23, 2009), but his remarks will be misconstrued as advocating just such a position (see June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, and July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 12, 2009).
A 1983 photo of Madelyn Dunham hugging her grandson, Barack Obama, on the occasion of his graduation from college. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Speaking to a crowd of largely pro-health care reform supporters in Colorado, President Obama cites the death of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, to debunk the widespread idea that his ideas for reform would include so-called “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009). “I just lost my grandmother last year,” he says. “I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who’s aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that.” He disputes “the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma.… When you start making arguments like that, that’s simply dishonest—especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of Congress in the other party who, turns out, sponsored similar provisions” (see August 12-13, 2009). Dunham died of cancer at the age of 86 (see November 10, 2008). “Health care is really hard,” Obama tells the crowd. “This is not easy. I’m a reasonably dedicated student to this issue. I’ve got a lot of really smart people around me who’ve been working on this for months now. There is no perfect painless silver bullet out there that solves every problem, gives everybody health care for free. There isn’t. I wish there was.” Continuing his push on his weekly Internet and radio address, Obama says, “I know there’s plenty of real concern and skepticism out there. I know that in a time of economic upheaval, the idea of change can be unsettling, and I know that there are folks who believe that government should have no role at all in solving our problems.” He says it is imperative for everyone to “lower our voices, listen to one another, and talk about differences that really exist.” [Associated Press, 8/15/2009]
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