End-of-life counseling that was part of health-care reform is being removed from the plan. It has to be that way because too few Americans bothered to understand what was actually being proposed. Optional end-of-life consultations would have benefited a lot of patients and their families.

IN the end, sensible end-of-life counseling proposals in health-care reform had to be dropped, because too few Americans bothered to understand what was being proposed.

From a practical standpoint, consultations must be removed from the legislation to save more-pressing elements of reform. Willful distortions of optional end-of-life counseling spiraled out of control. This is not a proud moment in American politics.

Financing beneficiaries’ optional consultations about a range of end-of-life care is a good idea. Families need it. Patients benefit.

But a well-orchestrated rumor campaign ensured this element of the plan could not survive. It became too much of distraction.

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The idea that the government would stage death panels cutting care to critically ill patients is an absurdity, perpetuated by conservative publications and a woman, Betsey McCaughey, whose claim to fame is trashing Former President Clinton’s health-care reform.

Sarah Palin joined the frenzy, proving how dangerous she would have been as vice president.

Ironically, the idea for such consultations supposedly came from Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican. Doctors, patients and families will have to wait for a saner moment in the debate to include this important care.

Sometimes, hysteria wins. What a shame for those who may not have access to information that would aid them in making excruciatingly painful decisions.