Yesterday in the Washington Post, Amy Berman shared her experience with her cancer treatment. She was diagnosed nearly five years ago with an incurable cancer, and she has made decisions about her treatment that support her goal of living as well as she can for as long as she can. She rejected aggressive treatments, including the advice of an esteemed oncologist, in favor of treatments that allow her to maintain her quality of life. Fortunately, she has had excellent results. She continues to work, travel, and live her life to the fullest.
In sharing her experience over the last several years, Berman has helped to advance understanding of the need for shared decision-making, taking into account an individual’s goals for his/her life, as well as to advance policy objectives that would improve cancer care and end-of-life care. In 2012, NCCS presented Berman with the President’s Award for her choice to preserve her quality of life when faced with an advanced cancer diagnosis.
Berman directs her comments in the Washington Post piece to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is deciding whether to implement an advance care planning code that would reimburse physicians for discussions about an individual’s wishes for care at the end of his or her life. NCCS has publicly supported the proposed code and submitted comments to CMS about advance care planning and CMS efforts to promote better coordination of care.
But Berman’s story is about more than advance care planning or end-of-life care. She describes a thoughtful process of treatment planning with her physician that identified her personal goals for treatment and tailored a treatment plan to meet her objectives. And she continues to make informed and shared decisions with her physician, based on scientific evidence and her values and preferences. What Berman describes is the kind of cancer care planning that would be made available to all seniors by the Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act (HR 2846).
We salute Berman for her willingness to share her experience and for her policy advocacy in support of better care for individuals with serious illnesses.