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Hospice and Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia
One Work Cited This essay will present the views of that worldwide organization named Hospice which has seen the quiet, natural death of millions of terminally ill patients - without the use of physician-assisted suicide. It is important that the voice of the largest caregiver for the terminally ill be heard, and listened to attentively. For they have the most experience. The Hemlock Society is nothing (in scope, importance, goals)in comparison to this great Hospice Organization (HO).
Hospice professionals and caregivers have given the issue of physician-assisted suicide much thought and consideration in recent years, and adopted an organizational position on the issue as early as February of 1992. Last year, when the debate increased in intensity, the HO not only reaffirmed its earlier position, but strengthened it. The Organization's Resolution clearly states, "That assisted suicide is not a component of hospice care; ..." and "That the Hospice Organization does not support the legalization of voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide in the care of the terminally ill."
Hospice workers, likely more than any other group of care providers, deal with the desperation that many individuals feel when they accept the fact that their illness is likely to be the cause of their death. In that process, hospice staff deal not only with the physical pain of the illness, but also the emotional pain of facing leaving one's family, the social pain of enduring what may be considered indignities, and the spiritual pain associated with one's cultural and personal beliefs about life after death. Through an interdisciplinary approach that is unique to hospice care, patients who elect hospice receive treatment for all their concerns. Hospice caregivers have discovered three central reasons a terminally ill person may want to discuss suicide.
One is a fear of uncontrolled pain. Another is fear of abandonment, of being left alone to die and feeling there is no one to care. The third is concern over financial pressures that may leave a family devastated by the last illness. Hospice addresses these concerns as quickly in the disease process as is possible, and hospice workers everywhere will tell the public that when these issues are under control, the desire to end one's life becomes a non-issue. Hospice workers dedicate their professional and often their personal lives to successfully resolving those issues. The hospice community is very concerned that the legalization of
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The HO is also concerned that the legalization of physician-assisted suicide will cause the ill elderly to begin to feel an obligation to die, when they consider themselves no longer productive to society. Providing a legal option to end one's life as soon as an illness becomes terminal will certainty put heavy pressure on older citizens, who must rely on others for their care. And if that option were chosen, what a loss to their children and grandchildren!
The ballot proposal establishes the physician as the legal "assister". We are aware of many, many physicians - many thousands -- who do not wish to be named as the source of assistance if such a proposal should become law. Physicians who do not want this task state that it is incompatible to the physician's role as a healer to place this duty on their shoulders. Hospice physicians work daily to relieve pain and to help the hospice team manage the dying process, so that patients do not have to think about ending their lives early. The election of hospice care by citizens who are terminally ill has increased every year since hospice became a state-funded program, in 1984. This has happened because of the remarkable care that hospice offers to patients and their families. To encourage an early end to one's life by creating a law that would legalize assisted suicide is to take a giant stop backward regarding the care of the terminally ill.
There are many other concerns related to the legalizing of assisted suicide, all of which are addressed by the HO and other organized groups of providers and citizen advocates. We would encourage all citizens who would like more information on this very complicated issue to contact the HO office or the executive director of their local hospice.
Dame Cicely Saunders provided the philosophy that still permeates hospice today "... we will do all that we can ... to help you live until you die." There is no room for assisted suicide in that statement.
Hospice Foundation of America