Why do you think that what was a social Democratic policy of assisted suicide decades ago was never given voice but is given voice connected to Affordable CAre Act? The argument decades ago centered on fear of abuse and doctors felt it against their Hippocratic Oath to allow/participate in this. Most people understand that if someone wants to end their lives there are already many painless ways to do this. Fear of abuse is super-sized in the midst of global corporate right-wing profit-driven health care.
If you support Affordable CAre Act assisted suicide becomes VALUE-ADDED AND EVIDENCE-BASED TOWARDS MAXIMIZING CORPORATE PROFIT WITH PEOPLE ENDING THEIR LIVES WHEN HEALTH CARE COSTS GROW AND PEOPLE ARE NO LONGER PRODUCTIVE HUMAN CAPITAL. This is why social Democrats have always feared abuse on this issue. We supported people's right to choose suicide---but never supported doctor assisted suicide.
I stated yesterday that in today's environment of ACA with the goal of rising health costs---health insurance people cannot afford----ending our Medicare and Medicaid----we all know ACA was designed to move Americans towards this right-wing assisted suicide because people are no longer productive workers model. The fear of abuse model.
For the ACA ---value-added comes to health corporations in not spending money to keep people alive taking from hospital profits. From evidence-based side data can be produced making it seem a patient's chances of recovery or quality of life do not qualify a treatment for payment and moves a person to hospice and/or assisted suicide. This is the Affordable CAre Act corporate profit model.
Below you see as a society, the US is not in favor of assisted suicide and does feel it has too much of a likihood of being abused. A Humane Society for animals does not euthanize animals.
Baltimore Humane Society
1601 Nicodemus Road
Reisterstown, MD 21136
The Baltimore Humane Society is a no-kill shelter, meaning that we do not euthanize due to time or space constraints, reserving euthanasia for animals who are suffering mentally or physically, terminally ill, or considered dangerous to themselves, other animals, and/or humans.
US STATES STARTED MOVING TOWARDS ASSISTED SUICIDE AS THEY BECAME MORE AND MORE CONTROLLED BY REAGAN/CLINTON NEO-LIBERALISM. VERMONT'S STANCE UNDER SCHUMLIN AND BERNIE'S SUPPORT JUST A FEW YEARS AGO BRINGS CONCERNS ABOUT BERNIE'S STANCE ON EXPANDED AND IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL. WE KNOW HILLARY IS A AFFORDABLE CARE ACT REPUBLICAN FOR ASSISTED SUICIDE.
This is the concern for social Democrats as we work to replace ACA with Expanded Medicare for All-----social Democrats support right to die but not driven by pressures of money. Expanded and Improved Medicare for All is supposed to take away that pressure for money-----that fear of medical bankruptcy. If Bernie is a real social Democrat he will embrace that. If not, WE THE PEOPLE NEED TO PREPARE TO ADDRESS THIS STATE BY STATE.
State-by-State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide
[Editor's Note: We do not recommend or refer specific physicians, counselors, organizations, or other experts on end-of-life issues.]
5 States Have Legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide
(see section I below)
4 states (CA*, OR, VT, and WA) legalized physician-assisted suicide via legislation
*California's law will take effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns the special session on healthcare, which likely will not be until Jan. 2016 at the earliest.
1 state (MT) has legal physician-assisted suicide via court ruling
45 States and DC Consider Assisted Suicide Illegal
(see section II below)
38 states have laws prohibiting assisted suicide
3 states (AL, MA, and WV) and the District of Columbia prohibit assisted suicide by common law
4 states (NV, NC, UT, and WY) have no specific laws regarding assisted suicide, may not recognize common law, or are otherwise unclear on the legality of assisted suicide.
0 Federal Laws on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
The federal government and all 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit euthanasia under general homicide laws. The federal government does not have assisted suicide laws. Those laws are generally handled at the state level.
I want to emphasize-----it is not a social Democratic stance to push assisted suicide at the same time health reform has taken an extreme global corporate and profit-driven path.
You side on social issues with...
Somewhat Important to me
Should terminally ill patients be allowed to end their lives via assisted suicide? stats discuss
You, Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders: Yes
Ben Carson’s similar answer: Yes, but only if there is no chance they will survive their illness
Gary Johnson and Michael Bloomberg's similar answer: Yes, but only after a psychological examination to show they fully understand this choice
'Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law at a Statehouse ceremony even as opponents vowed to push for its repeal'.
Vermont Legalizes Assisted Suicide
05/20/2013 07:11 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2013
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- After years of debate, Vermont became the fourth state in the country Monday to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law at a Statehouse ceremony even as opponents vowed to push for its repeal.
The End of Life Choices law was effective immediately, although it could be weeks before the state Health Department develops regulations in accordance with the new measure.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said he expects doctors to write between 10 and 20 lethal prescriptions a year, with a smaller number of patients actually using the drugs.
He based his figures on the experience in Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997. Washington state and Montana followed later, with Montana's coming by way of a court order.
"It's used by a very small number, but it brings comfort to a much greater number knowing it's there," Chen said.
During emotionally charged discussion of the bill, proponents said Vermonters of sound mind who are suffering from terminal conditions should be able to choose when to end their lives. But opponents said the law could be abused and vulnerable people, especially the elderly, could be forced to end their lives.
Shumlin offered reassurances before signing the bill.
"This bill does not compel anyone to do anything that they don't choose in sound mind to do," he said. "All it does is give those who are facing terminal illness, are facing excruciating pain, a choice in a very carefully regulated way."
Some critics of the law attended the bill-signing and promised to seek its repeal.
"We need to be more of a caring, compassionate society, not one that says `take a pill, go away,'" said Edward Alonzo of Burlington. "People don't have the best of intentions, always, with their family members," he said.
The Legislature passed the bill last week. A similar measure was defeated in 2007.
"I know from my many years of practice that there are many patients out there that want to have this option available to them, and because it's a new bill I anticipate that a lot of people are going to ask questions about it," said Dr. Diana Barnard, a family practice doctor in Burlington who is certified in hospice care.
"I do know there are providers who will be willing to provide the best possible medicine to their patients regardless of what that means, and that includes all aspects of palliative care," she said.
In its first three years, the Vermont law will resemble the Oregon model, which has built-in safeguards, including requirements that patients state three times – once in writing – that they wish to die. Other safeguards include a concurring opinion from a second doctor that a patient has less than six months to live and a finding that the patient is of sound mind.
In Oregon and Washington, patients who take advantage of the Death with Dignity law use the drug pentobarbital, a barbiturate, that is dissolved in liquid or semi-liquid, said George Eighmey, a board member of the Death with Dignity National Center in Portland, Ore.
The patient doesn't eat for four or five hours before taking an anti-nausea drug and the lethal drug about an hour after that. It takes about five minutes for the patient to fall into a coma. The average length of time until death is about two hours, said Eighmey.
After July 1, 2016, Vermont will move to a model pushed by some senators who complained of too much government intervention. The new model would require less monitoring and reporting by doctors. But many expect lawmakers may push to eliminate those changes and leave the original model in place.
The Health Department will receive reports of how many people were prescribed lethal drugs. Chen said he expects the process will be covered by health insurance.
In every case the current move to promote doctor-assisted suicide comes with the disclaimer of terminally ill and a patient making this decision. It NEVER speaks to the fact that the ACA is moving people to medical bankruptcy in huge numbers and that these issues WILL ULTIMATELY DRIVE A PATIENT'S DECISION TOWARDS ASSISTED SUICIDE.
Think again, as the profit-driven move in health care pushes out doctors who have issues of Hippocratic Oath and Do No Harm----and pushes in doctors with drives towards earning millions of dollars a year.
THIS IS WHERE BERNIE SANDERS WILL NEED DEMOCRATIC VOTERS TO SHOUT OUT AGAINST THIS STAND AND MOVE STATES TOWARDS NOT ALLOWING DOCTOR'S ASSISTED SUICIDES.
The idea of Hillary on the fence on a global Wall Street profit-driven health system is RIDICULOUS----SHE IS PROGRESSIVE POSING FOR THOSE CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRATIC VOTERS.
CINDY WALSH FOR MAYOR OF BALTIMORE SUPPORT RIGHT TO DIE BUT DOES NOT SUPPORT DOCTOR-ASSISTED SUICIDE. AS A REAL EXPANDED AND IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL POL I WILL SEE THAT MEDICAL EXPENSES ARE NOT WHAT DRIVES PEOPLE TO WANT SUICIDE.
We have a Congress full of global Wall Street pols that will allow this issue to move towards pressing people to end their lives.
Monday, Oct 12, 2015 05:56 PM EDT
Dying is never easy: Assisted suicide doesn’t necessarily help us have a “good death”
I've worked in hospice and I watched both of my parents die—and I'm still ambivalent about California's new law
Claire Bidwell Smith
When I was 25 years old my father asked me to help him die. We were standing in his bedroom and he was in the mechanical hospital bed the hospice team had installed. I had just finished brushing his dentures, and they were still drying in my hand, when he proposed the idea that I compile all of his pain meds and help him ingest them. I placed the dentures gently on the swiveling table at his bedside and told him I needed to think about it.
Alone in the living room I stood before the sliding glass doors of my father’s Orange County condominium and watched some neighbor kids playing in the pool. I would have done anything my father asked of me. I had already quit my job so that I could care for him. I had defied his team of doctors who urged me to place him in a skilled care facility, and I had moved into his condo with him, so that he could live out his final weeks in his own home. I slept with a baby monitor next to my pillow, starting out of my sleep every night when I heard his voice.
But this? Helping him die? Something about it didn’t feel right.
I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on what that feeling was until nearly seven years later, long after he was gone. I had been working as a hospice grief counselor in Chicago for nearly four years, and was preparing for the birth of my first child. I spent my days driving around the snowy Illinois suburbs helping people care for their dying loved ones, just as I had with my father.
All that long winter while my belly grew so large that I could barely fit behind the wheel of my car, I was struck by the differences in the ways we welcome life into this world, and the ways in which we pay homage to its end. During my pregnancy I was thrown multiple baby showers, invested hours in birthing classes, employed a doula and a midwife, lit candles as I wrote letters to my yet-to-be-born child, and both inwardly and outwardly celebrated the coming change in my life.
The contrast to the hushed and somber homes in which I watched people meeting the end of their lives was stark. The air was often thick with fear, sadness and resistance. There were no rituals, no ceremonies, and very few blessings bestowed upon the end of life. It turns out that as the human race has extended life well into our eighties and nineties, we have also turned away from facing death.
One of the issues most commonly faced by hospices across the country is the problem of patients who sign up with only a day or two to live. Dr. BJ Miller of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco reports that, “in 2012 forty-two percent of Californians died in hospice. That’s almost half. But a third of those were on hospice for less than a week.” Of this dilemma he goes on to explain that, “in a day or two we can get a little physical comfort for the patient, make a little space to dwell in the emotional realm, maybe have a reconciling conversation or two, and maybe eke out a salvaged, non-horrible death. That’s better than the alternative.”
My mother’s death was a prime example of the alternative. Rather than opting for hospice at the end of her four-year battle with colon cancer, as her doctors advised, she continued seeking last-ditch treatments until her very last hours, where she died in the middle of the night in a hospital in Washington, D.C., without saying goodbye to those she loved, having failed to accept the end of her life. My father wanted his death to be different. He knew he was dying; he had accepted this, and he was seemingly at peace with it. His only wish was to do it in his own home.
And so on that day when he asked me for help ending his life, something in me balked. Wasn’t the whole point of this to face it? To be present to death? Unable to bring myself to respond to my father’s request, I instead confided in the hospice nurse. I felt as though I was betraying my father by doing so, but what happened next would ease this concern. The nurse gave me a sad, warm smile and told me something that I would see play out in so many of the homes I would later work in myself.
“Dying isn’t easy,” she said to me. “But there are so many things we can do to make someone more comfortable.” She explained that she wanted to explore the reasons my father wanted to hasten his already impending death. Was it possible that his medications needed to be adjusted, that he was experiencing more pain than was necessary? Or was there perhaps something causing him psychological discomfort?
It turned out that it was both. He was in pain, something the hospice team was able to remedy with adjustments to his medication, but more importantly, he was worried about something. He admitted that he felt burdensome. The guilt he felt about letting me give over my life to take care of the end of his was weighing on him greatly.
I assured him that I was dedicated to sharing his final days with him, no matter how difficult they might be, and I promised him that I would be there, holding his hand, when he took his final breaths.
Those last weeks of his life were not easy, not for him or for me. But they also were not in any way painful or horrific. There were, in fact, many peaceful hours spent, with my father both in and out of consciousness as he slowly ventured towards the end. In his lucid moments we looked into each other’s old, familiar eyes and said beautiful and necessary things to each other. And when he was gone I had no regrets about how he left, or what the circumstances were that led up to his departure, something I very much felt following my mother’s passing, and something I see so often in the clients I counsel through their grief process.
Ever since my father died, ever since witnessing what Miller refers to as a “good death,” I have come to hold a deep reverence for the process of dying. I ultimately support California’s new End of Life bill because I think people should have as much freedom as possible when it comes to their own medical decisions, and I also do not believe people should suffer unnecessarily. But I do think that the actual process of dying should not be overlooked, nor hastened, in cases when there is much that can be done to make it comfortable. Let us not always leap to the last page without at least skimming the last chapter.
My concern about this new measure is that although it appears on the outside to allow us to embrace death in significant way, in certain cases it will also provide a way for us to shrink from it. I do believe that there are cases in which physician-assisted suicide can eliminate potential weeks and months of suffering, but my fear is that some patients will choose assisted suicide as a way of circumnavigating issues that could have been otherwise addressed, such as fear, guilt, and sadness. My hope is that the physicians who are signing off on assisted suicide are asking the same questions that the hospice nurse asked of my father, and that they are looking at all the factors contributing to a patient’s wish to end their life.
My father died naturally only a few weeks after that conversation with the nurse, and I was there holding his hand when he took his last breaths. In those last days we had some of our most profound conversations, moments I’m so grateful we were able to have. His last words to me were, “If there were no death, we would never know how sweet life really is.”
When Republicans and Clinton/Obama Wall Street global corporate neo-liberals wrote Affordable Care Act they amended yet again the original Social Security Act with another SECTION------PART E. When they did that it gave the chance to redefine what hospice means and what defines people needing hospice. Remember, hospice is not a profit-driven model of health care. Its costs are high if done right. If done wrong and cheaply-----hospice becomes SANITORIUM----the bare institutional stage of isolation with little medical intervention.
Third world nations do not have a system of hospice as the US does. First world hospice is social Democratic-----it is public interest. Third world hospice is institutional and includes little funding. Think as well as PHARMA costs are driven higher and higher with Trans Pacific Trade Pact----what kinds of PHARMA will be available in hospice? We will see Americans pushed towards ending life and the boundaries will move from terminal illness-----to financial hardship as being reasons for assisted suicide.
Part E—Miscellaneous Provisions
DEFINITIONS OF SERVICES, INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
Sec. 1861. [42 U.S.C. 1395x] For purposes of this title--
According to Title 18, Section 1861 (dd) of the Social Security Act, the term “hospice care” means the following items and services provided to a terminally ill individual by, or by others under arrangements made by, a hospice program under a written plan (for providing such care to such individual) established and periodically reviewed by the individual's attending physician and by the medical director (and by the interdisciplinary group described in paragraph (2)(B)) of the program--
- (A) nursing care provided by or under the supervision of a registered professional nurse,
- (B) physical or occupational therapy, or speech-language pathology services,
- (C) medical social services under the direction of a physician,
- (D)(i) services of a home health aide who has successfully completed a training program approved by the Secretary and
- (ii) homemaker services,
- (E) medical supplies (including drugs and biologicals) and the use of medical appliances, while under such a plan,
- (F) physicians' services,
- (G) short-term inpatient care (including both respite care and procedures necessary for pain control and acute and chronic symptom management) in an inpatient facility meeting such conditions as the Secretary determines to be appropriate to provide such care, but such respite care may be provided only on an intermittent, nonroutine, and occasional basis and may not be provided consecutively over longer than five days,
- (H) counseling (including dietary counseling) with respect to care of the terminally ill individual and adjustment to his death, and
- (I) any other item or service which is specified in the plan and for which payment may otherwise be made under this title.
hospice statistics are now available for calendar years 1998 to 2008 , and include the 20 most frequent diagnoses, the number of patients, average length of stay, and trends over time in length of stay, by diagnosis. (see "Downloads" below).
For a one-stop resource web page focused on the informational needs and interests of Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) hospices, go to the Hospice Center (see "Related Links Inside CMS" below).
The entire discussion over the drafting of reform to Medicare and Medicaid came amidst the pitting of younger adults against older adults whether in taking of jobs or paying for health care. Global pols are blaming baby boomers staying in the workforce as to why younger adults are heavily unemployed/underemployed.....and that is not true. Global pols are using baby boomer health care as to why an insurance mandate on younger adults was necessary----that is not true. We must remember that all global pols see global competition as all policy -----value-added becomes getting older people out of the system because they cannot work as hard or fast. Evidence-based data becomes providing evidence for doing just that. What happens in a global corporate competitive policy once that older human capital doesn't produce? Well, they want to make sure it doesn't involve any tax base that is slated to go to global corporate subsidy to maximize profit.
WE THE PEOPLE MUST BE VERY AWARE TO GOALS WITH THIS HEALTH REFORM-----MARYLAND IS ALREADY PUSHING THIS POLICY OF EUTHANASIA
'Moreover, there is no need to worry too much about age-related productivity declines or an age related pay-productivity gap – pay and productivity seem to go hand-in-hand as workers grow older. Maybe increasing firm-specific knowledge and experience is responsible for this.
Nevertheless, the labour market position of older workers will remain an area of policy concern. It remains the case that once older workers become unemployed they lose the firm-specific human capital and older unemployed are less likely to find new work'.
Age, wage, and productivity
Jan van Ours 05 March 2010
Ageing populations are a concern for many developed countries, with increasing dependence on the working population expected. Despite this, there is relatively little research on how productivity changes with age. This column argues that while older people do not run as fast, there is no evidence of a mental productivity decline and little evidence of an increasing pay-productivity gap. The negative effects of ageing on productivity should not be exaggerated.
Over the coming decades, European countries will experience a steep increase in the share of elderly people and a steep decline in the share of people of prime working-age. The number of workers retiring each year will increase and eventually exceed the number of new labour market entrants. The ratio of older inactive persons per worker could rise to almost one older inactive person for every worker by 2050 (OECD 2006).
Population ageing occurs because birth rates are low and people are living longer. Since 1960 life expectancy at age 65 has increased from 13 to 17 years for men and from 15 to 20 years for women. Not only is the labour force ageing, the length of working lives has been declining because workers are retiring earlier than they used to.
With an ageing labour force, the labour market position of older workers is a matter of policy concern. Currently, in many countries older workers are not very likely to lose their job but once they have lost their job they need a long time to find a new one. This situation is often attributed to the gap between wage and productivity, i.e. older workers having a wage that is higher than their productivity. At their current employer, older workers are protected by employment protection legislation including seniority rules. But once older workers become unemployed, employers are reluctant to hire them.
Surprisingly little is known about this relationship. Most employers – and probably most employees – seem to believe in a rule of thumb that average labour productivity declines after some age between 40 and 50. This assumption is so common that few attempts have been made to gather supporting evidence: “why bother to prove the obvious?” (Johnson 1993).
It is not easy to establish the relationship between age and productivity. Productivity is difficult to measure at the level of the individual since it is usually a group phenomenon. Since a group of workers usually consists of workers of different ages the relationship between age and productivity is not straightforward.
Only on rare occasions is it possible to establish the productivity of individuals. A well-known example is physical productivity in sports contests. In recent research I have analysed the results from an amateur 10km run in the Netherlands (Van Ours 2010). The data refer to the period 1998-2008. The upper part of Figure 1 gives an overview of the observations showing a tendency for the speed to go down with age but at any given age there is a huge variation in average speed. The lower part of Figure 1 presents the average speed by age group showing the average speed goes down from more than 15 kilometres per hour (km/h) for runners younger than 25 to about 13 km/h for participants aged 40. After 40, the average speed hardly drops. Taking into account differences in running ability, the average drop in running speed is 0.6% per year for men and 0.4% per year for women. So, physical productivity declines with ageing – but not a lot.
Figure 1. Running 10 km, 1998-2008
a. All data
b. Average speed per age
Productivity may change over the life cycle because cognitive abilities change with age. To get some idea about this relationship I have studied how publishing in economics journals by members of the Department of Economics of the Tilburg School of Economics is related to their age (Van Ours 2010). To establish a publication score, impact factors of journals are used.
The top part of Figure 2 gives a graphical representation of the available information. As shown there is a lot of variation in publications. There are many years for which individual economists have no publication at all. But there are also several observations of individuals who had a publication value of more than 20 within one year. The bottom part of Figure 2 shows average publication scores by year. Apart from publications being a bit lower below age 35 there is no obvious age pattern in these annual publication scores. From an analysis in which time-invariant individual characteristics are taken into account it appears that productivity in publishing increases with age up to age 50 and stays constant after that.
Figure 2. Publishing in economics journals, 1977-2008
a. All data
b. Average publication score by age
Firm level relationship between age, wage and productivity
Recent studies on the relationship between age, wage, and productivity using matched worker-firm panel data are inconclusive about whether or not there is a pay-productivity gap for older workers. To study the age related pay-productivity gap, Lenny Stoeldraijer and I have used matched worker-firm data from Dutch manufacturing firms over the period 2000-2005 measuring productivity as value added per worker (van Ours and Stoeldraijer 2010).
To the extent that running performance represents physical productivity Figure 1 presents evidence of a productivity decline after age 40. To the extent that publishing in economics journals represents mental productivity Figure 2 shows that there is no evidence of a productivity decline, even after age 50. Figure 3 shows that when measured at the firm level there is little evidence of an increasing pay-productivity gap at higher ages of the workforce. These empirical findings are limited to the extent that they are based on Dutch data focusing on single dimensions of productivity. Running is used as an example of physical fitness, publishing as an example of mental ability. Both samples used in the analysis concern small groups that are most likely not representative for the Dutch labour force.
Despite the limitations of the empirical analysis some conclusions can be drawn. My main conclusion is that the potential negative effects of ageing on productivity should not be underestimated; they should not be exaggerated either.
Moreover, there is no need to worry too much about age-related productivity declines or an age related pay-productivity gap – pay and productivity seem to go hand-in-hand as workers grow older. Maybe increasing firm-specific knowledge and experience is responsible for this.
Nevertheless, the labour market position of older workers will remain an area of policy concern. It remains the case that once older workers become unemployed they lose the firm-specific human capital and older unemployed are less likely to find new work.
When you have a profit-driven health reform bringing higher and higher health costs with growing efforts by Americans to stay connected to our quality of life-----as with our credit card debt replacing our falling wages------now we are being forced to incur medical debt to simply access ordinary care. This is deliberate as global pols move the US from first world to third world developing status------we will eventually not even try to get basic hospital care because we will not want the debt----and will return to dying at first onset of chronic or late-age disease vectors. Baltimore has operated like this for decades as it was allowed to EXEMPT ITSELF FROM MEDICARE OVERSIGHT and moved Medicare and Medicaid to corporate subsidy and not patient care. We have a 30 year longevity gap in Baltimore because of this. THIS IS WHAT AFFORDABLE CARE ACT USES AS A MODEL. MARYLAND CALLS THIS UNIVERSAL CARE OR SINGLE-PAYER REPUBLICAN-STYLE.
Number of older Americans filing for bankruptcy soars
By Matt Sedensky Associated Press / August 28, 2008
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - First came the health problems. Then, unable to work, Ada Noda watched the bills pile up. And then, suffocating in debt, the 80-year-old did something she never thought she'd be forced to do.
She declared bankruptcy.
While the bankruptcy filing rate for those under 55 has fallen, it has soared for older Americans, according to a new analysis from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which examined a sampling of noncommercial bankruptcies filed between 1991 and 2007.
The older the age group, the worse the numbers got - people 65 and older became more than twice as likely to file during that period, and the filing rate for those 75 and older more than quadrupled.
"Older Americans are hit by a one-two punch of jobs and medical problems and the two are often intertwined," said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who was one of the authors of the study. "They discover that they must work to keep some form of economic balance and when they can't, they're lost."
That is precisely what happened to Noda. She worked all her life, on a hospital's housekeeping staff, and later sold boat tickets to tourists. She cut corners when she needed to but always paid the bills she neatly logged in a ledger.
"I was born during the Depression," she said. "I paid the bills whether I ate or didn't, whether I went to the doctor or not."
It all worked fine for Noda, a widow, until she was forced to undergo double bypass surgery and deal with respiratory problems. She started using two credit cards more frequently for food and bills. Before long, she was $8,000 in debt and behind on car payments.
"I'd go to bed and all I had on my mind was bankruptcy," she said. "I had nothing left."
Noda's car was repossessed, but her trailer home wasn't in jeopardy because her daughter owns it. While she's covered by Medicare and receives $968 in Social Security each month, she relied on her job for other expenses. She eventually sought help from Jacksonville Legal Aid and declared bankruptcy.
Most bankruptcies are filed by people far younger than Noda, but the percentage the younger filers make up has fallen over the 16-year period, according to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project analysis, which will be published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review in January.
In 1991, the 55-plus age group accounted for about 8 percent of bankruptcy filers, according to the study, which looked at more than 6,000 cases filed in 1991, 2001 or 2007. By last year, filers 55 and over accounted for 22 percent.
Each age group under 55 saw double-digit percentage drops in their bankruptcy filing rates over the survey period, but older Americans saw remarkable increases. The filing rate per 1,000 people ages 55 to 64 was up 40 percent; among 65- to 74-year-olds it increased 125 percent; and among the 75-to-84-year-old set, it increased 433 percent.
A number of factors contribute to the increase. Higher prices for ordinary consumer goods have hit seniors on fixed incomes. For older Americans living below the poverty level, or not far above, a safety net probably doesn't exist for economic setbacks such as medical problems. And some fall prey to scams that cripple their finances.
Warren noted that increasing numbers of Americans are entering their retirement years with significant debt and are still paying off mortgages. She said it was wrong to assume that lives of luxury are bankrupting seniors; rather, they're incurring debts to meet needs such as medical treatment.
Frank and Hazel Peters lived frugally throughout their 53-year marriage. They always rented a home but decided after Frank Peters's retirement from a factory job that they would cash in his 401(k) and buy a manufactured home down a gravel road in tiny Hastings, a town of cornfields and potato farms.
But they fell victim to fraud when they tried to fix a plumbing problem that had black, sulphur-smelling water coming through the pipes of their new home, and without enough funds to fall back on, they declared bankruptcy.
"We knew we had no other option," Hazel Peters said. "We'd probably be out on the street."