Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hospice Care: Back Door to Euthanasia?

A friend's husband died yesterday at home, the day after a visiting hospice nurse announced that he would die in a day or two. Let's call him Bill.

Bill's do-it-yourselver family had decided to bypass the funeral home. His body was washed by his wife and the hospice nurse and is "resting comfortably on a mattress on the dining room table."

I don't have a problem with the home viewing. I think it's great actually. I would do that myself, if I had someone die at home and the help I needed to pull it off.

But I do have a problem with how he died.

At the web page set up for Bill at CaringBridge.org, I was disturbed to see today that the wife's closest friend commented how happy she was that Bill's sufferings were "shortened."

That set off a red alert for me.

For a long time, I have suspected that hospice routines are often euthanasia in disguise.

And so I googled "hospice euthanasia."

One account I came across occurred in a hospice (not in home care). A newly-admitted man (I'll call him Joseph) had a bedsore and was eating the day he was admitted. They would not give Joseph antibiotics to continue to treat his bed sore and refused to give him food or water (ostensibly to prevent aspiration). And without medical necessity, according to the RN who was a friend of the family and present at the bedside, they started giving him large doses of morphine.

When the wife protested that her husband had eaten breakfast on the day he was admitted without any problem and she saw no reason why he would not be allowed to eat, the hospice nurse told the wife that she [the wife] just didn't get it, her husband was going to die in three days. She callously said this in the man's presence.

The RN who wrote the article reported that the hospice nurse's confidence in her prediction was due to long practice. The hospice nurse knew that three days was about how long it takes a person to die of dehydration after they start terminal sedation.

Reading this, I recalled that the hospice nurse at my friend Bill's home predicted Bill's death in a day or two. I now suspect she was able to do so because it's all part of the normal hospice procedure. She too knows how long it takes a person to die of dehydration. Bill had been taking a lot of morphine for quite some time. He had gotten a head start with the dehydration since he hadn't been able to drink water for days. He was already starving, since he hadn't been able to eat for weeks, and he was skin and bones.

When I wrote an email a few days ago to his wife and asked about tube feeding, because it might make him more comfortable (it could provide water along with the nourishment), she replie, "No feeding tube. Bill is dying, and neither of us cares to prolong the process any longer than necessary."

The truth about dying is that our lives and our deaths are in the hands of God. He made us and we live and die according to His will. To take our own lives is called suicide. To take another person's life is murder. The 10 Commandments are still in effect whether we believe in them or not.
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