In an emotionally-charged Countdown Wednesday, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann issued a plea to viewers and members of Congress to actively consider the plight of terminally ill Americans, invoking his father’s case as an example.
Olbermann delivered a ‘Special Comment’ while choking back tears as he recalled a litany of medical woes, including removal of a colon, kidney failure, liver failure, dialysis, feeding tubes and numerous infections he said have plagued his father for the past 6 months.
One especially difficult day for his father, Olbermann recalls, was walking into his hospital room to hear — “Stop this,” he mouthed. “Stop, stop, stop.” He said he tried to comfort him, and continued, “And I say to him: I know for a fact they are not doing anything more to you tonight. And he looks at me and starts thrashing his head again: ‘Help, help, help.'”
“I get his attention again,” Olbermann continues, “I ask him: do you want me to stop all of this? And he looks at me and mouths ‘yes.’ And I ask him: you understand what happens then. And he looks at me and mouths ‘yes.’ And I ask him: you realize you are not terminally ill, and if we do stop all of this, it might not be quick. And he mouths, ‘stop this.’ And I say, trying to joke him out of it — and trust me, gallows humor is your best defense in this situation — ‘what? You want me to smother you with a pillow?’ And he mouths ‘yes — kill me.’
The MSNBC host then recalls meeting with his father’s doctors to decide a course of treatment that included allowing his physically, and emotionally exhausted father a chance to rest. A “life-panel” discussion is how Olbermann described it.
After explaining that now his father lies asleep in the hospital still fighting infections, and is not expected to wake up again, Olbermann had a message for members of Congress on the eve of President Obama’s health care summit. “To the politicians who go into Blair House tomorrow for the summit: I have some requests as well,” he began. “Leave your egos at the door. 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.”
“And I want all of you to think of somebody lying in a hospital bed tonight who needed that care and needed that conversation, and imagine that that is your father, or mother, or son, or daughter, or wife, or husband, or partner.” The near-tearful Olbermann continued, “If you cannot do that, if you cannot put aside the meaninglessness of your political careers for this, my request to you then, is that you not come back out of that meeting for you would not be worthy of being with the real people of this country who suffer, and suffer again because you have acted on behalf of the corporations and not the people.”
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Feb. 24, 2010.