Idol Chatter

Having been addicted to the Olympics for the past two weeks, I haven’t been sampling my usual late night news programs. But last night while waiting for the finals of the women’s bobsled and aerials, I caught a glimpse of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” that made my remote finger stop in its tracks. Olbermann was describing how his seriously ill father had asked the loquacious host to “kill him.”For the past six month’s Olbermann’s father has been suffering from massive secondary infections and organ failure following the removal of his colon and he had finally had it. Full of IVs, breathing tubes, and liters of puss, he mouthed the words “help” to his son and indicated that he would, responding to Olbermann’s gallows humor, be fine with him placing a pillow over his face.Obviously Olbermann did not do so, but instead went and asked if his father could be sedated to relieve him from the physical pain and mental anguish he was experiencing. He was only able, and empowered, to do so thanks to ongoing discussions he had had with his father and his father’s doctors about critical options throughout treatment. Olbermann dubs this process a ‘life panel,’ as opposed to the characterization of this process by certain politicians as a “death panel.”On the eve of the bipartisan health care summit and with his father’s health seriously deteriorating, Olbermann hoped that his story would prompt viewers to have tough end of life conversations with loved ones. He also had some requests for those meeting in D.C. today: “Leave your egos at the door,” he said. “I want, I demand, that you give everybody in this country a chance at the care my father has gotten. And I demand, that you enact this most generous and most kind aspect of the reform proposed: the right to bill the damned insurance company for the conversation about what to do when the time comes, the Life Panel.”Putting my odd crush on Olbermann aside, I have found him to be, as of late, rather blustery, something Olbermann himself acknowledged after The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart poked fun at him.But, this Special Comment, while still filled with his trademark camera 1/camera 2 turns, was absolutely remarkable and brave. (That’s not to mention the work he’s done to raise money for free health fairs.) Anyone that has had to deal with end of life decisions will recognize themselves in the teary-eyed Olbermann, and those who have not yet had to deal with such painful decisions should take note. Hopefully, so will those meeting today in Washington.

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