Tag Archives: hospice

Seeing stealth euthanasia for what it is

Most of us are aware of the horror of abortion, of parents paying a doctor to kill their child, even if it goes by a sugar-coated name such as “choice” or “planned parenthood.” Too few are aware that at the other end of life, children, in an ironic turnabout, can pay a doctor to legally kill their own parents; the sugar-coated names for this are “hospice” or “palliative care.”

I learned this from the case of my own mother, who recently fell victim to “palliative care” and was killed at the hands of doctors and nurses, on the orders of one of her own children. She had imprudently chosen the wrong child to be her “health care proxy,” who then immediately had her physician sign a bland, one-sentence statement that she was legally incompetent. It is true that my mother was somewhat confused, particularly about time, but she recognized and cared about people, ran her own life, and knew what she wanted. Although she should not have made a major financial decision at that point, she certainly knew whether she wanted to live or die.

Unfortunately, a few months later she fell and fractured her pelvis, requiring a move to a nursing home while the bone healed. The nurses attending her were charmed by her kindness and her stories, and said that with physical therapy she should soon be able to walk again. However, her proxy decided instead that it was time for her to die. My mother was removed from medical care, and placed in hospice, or palliative care. As much as I and my mother fought for medical care, there was nothing we could do. No medical aid, including nutritional supplements or physical therapy, were to be provided – just morphine, ostensibly to relieve pain, but as later made clear, actually to hasten death.

The doctor ordered large doses of morphine at six-hour intervals, whether my mother was in pain or not. Morphine is known to depress appetite; it is used, illegally, by runway models to lose weight. When she weighed little more than 70 pounds and was losing about a pound a day, I asked that she be given a nutritional supplement, such as “Ensure.” I was told it was forbidden, under doctor’s orders. When I asked that the morphine be given only when in pain, I was told it had to be given by the clock. When I confronted the director of nursing, saying “You are allowed to give morphine to relieve pain, but not to hasten death” her reply was, point blank, “Not true – it depends on the quality of  life.” When I asked what the terminal condition was that justified her being put in hospice, the answer was “she is 96 years old and has a broken pelvis.” A broken bone is not a terminal condition. What they were saying is it was time for her to die.

Although her weight dropped to about 60 pounds, she ended up dying not of starvation, but of thirst. When she became too weak to lift a glass to her lips, the nurses were forbidden to syringe any water into her mouth – under doctor’s orders, at the behest of the proxy. My mother’s will to live kept her alive far longer than the “authorities” wished, but she eventually died after an excruciating last few weeks.

The irony is that as a young Jewish woman in Germany in the 1930s, she was slated to be exterminated at Auschwitz, but miraculously escaped from the train en route. Ironically, 75 years later she died a 60-pound skeleton, looking for all the world like an Auschwitz victim, killed not by that Holocaust but by our own Holocaust, that of our “culture of Death.”

 

ROY SCHOEMAN  is a Jewish entrant into the Catholic Church, best known for his writing and speaking on the Jewish roots of the Church, particularly in his bestseller, Salvation Is from the Jews. He has taught theology at Ave Maria University and Holy Apostles Seminary, and currently hosts a weekly radio show on Radio Maria.

Dignity and comfort for the dying

Some helpful advice in planning for hospice care for yourself or a loved one . . .

Dr. Susan Locke

Dr. Susan Locke

Throughout our lives, we make plans — for our own life and the lives of our loved ones. But few of us think about the end of our lives — how we can ensure our dignity or the dignity of a loved one.

When the time comes, it’s important to start this conversation with physicians, caretakers and family members. In partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio, Healthnetwork Foundation now has the resources to assist you and your family with hospice and in-home nursing care. To help you with this journey, we engaged the assistance of VNA’s hospice medical director, Cynthia Katzan, MD.

How do you know when you or a loved one is ready for hospice?

Usually your primary physician or specialist will bring up the topic of hospice with you if they feel the disease is considered “end-stage.” Some patients inquire about hospice themselves if they decide they don’t wish to continue with aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy or dialysis.

The primary criterion common to all is that a physician believes the patient is within the last six months of life if the illness continues on its course. At any time the patient or their family may call Healthnetwork to discuss hospice options.

How does a family get started?

The patient’s physician typically activates the hospice admission process. However, if you want to explore hospice options, a phone call to Healthnetwork will start a dialogue with hospice specialists at the VNA of Ohio.

If a family chooses hospice care at home, a nurse will assess for eligibility, explain the hospice philosophy and answer all questions. The nurse will also describe the types of support and resources available. Together with the patient and the family, they will prepare a plan customized to the physical, spiritual and emotional needs unique to that family.

Who will be the physician once the patient enters hospice?

Most people who have a rapport with their primary physician or oncologist will continue under their care, focusing on comfort, for the rest of their lives. Many hospices have a medical director who can assist as well.

Does the patient have to sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form?

Most hospice programs make this request. CPR is not in keeping with the hospice philosophy of a comfortable death with dignity. Performing CPR on someone who has a frail and diseased body never buys quality time.

Will the patient go to the hospital for their care?

Hospice is dedicated to “comfort care.” It’s designed for patients who are not seeking active treatment of their illness. Lab tests, X-rays and procedures are not part of the hospice philosophy.

If they are able to go to their physician’s office, some patients will continue to see their physician for symptom management. However, many terminally ill patients desire to remain at home. Hospice staff will do everything they can to honor that wish. Usually symptoms that arise can be managed by the hospice team.

Can the patient receive intravenous fluids in hospice?

When the patient is not drinking, it may be because they do not have thirst. This is a normal part of the physiologic process of dying. When they are thirsty and unable to drink or receive fluids intravenously, a simple technique called hypodermoclysis may be employed.

If you find yourself contemplating hospice services and in-home nursing care for a loved one, please contact Healthnetwork and allow us to guide you and your loved ones on that path.

SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.

HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org