In late 2014, Brittany Maynard, attracted a large amount of sympathy and generated much discussion of assisted suicide. The 29-year-old woman with brain cancer chose to end her life in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. She was a beautiful, vivacious young woman whose first-person writings stated her desire to spare her family the tragedy of watching her condition deteriorate as she progressed toward death.
The issue of assisted suicide (often referred to as “death with dignity”) is a polarizing topic with respected individuals and organizations taking stands on both sides of the argument.
In states where assisted suicide is legal, hospice organizations must make decisions as to whether to allow their staff members to participate in these procedures. Many individuals who choose assisted suicide in these states are hospice patients. Most hospices do not allow their staff members to be present when the procedure occurs.
We agree with Dr. Sandeep Jauhar who writes on CNN.com: I still believe that for most terminally ill patients, hospice care is a better option than assisted suicide. Hospice offers team-based care with family involvement, often in a patient’s home, that focuses on pain management and dying with some comfort and dignity.
Wesley Smith, writing last month on FirstThings.com, shared these thoughts: Hospice is about living, not dying. More precisely, hospice supports life with dignity for its patients and offers invaluable social and emotional support for patients’ families.
Noted hospice advocate Dr. Ira Byock, writing in January in the Los Angeles Times, says: I aid people in dying by treating their symptoms and supporting them through the difficult practical and emotional tasks of completing their lives. In more than 35 years of practice I have never once had to kill a patient to alleviate the person’s suffering.
He continues: I believe that deliberately ending the lives of ill people represents a socially erosive response to basic human needs. If we can stay civil and (even relatively) calm, we can debate physician-assisted suicide while also substantially improving end-of-life care.
As with most such controversial topics, much discussion lies ahead. At Hope Hospice, we encourage you to learn about all the ways hospice care can enhance the end of life process and provide comfort and support to patients. If you have questions about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call us at 314-984-9800.
(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32066106@N06/6087917593, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)