Hospice Care Isn’t Enough For All The Dying

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December 9, 2015 | Sacramento Bee
by Ann Jackson

People who opposed laws in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont authorizing medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults often claim there are better alternatives to relieve suffering.

I was one of them. In fact, I served as chief executive officer and chief spokesperson of the Oregon Hospice Association before and after the implementation in 1998 of the nation’s first medical aid-in-dying law. I voted against the referendum because I believed it was unnecessary if terminally ill Oregonians had access to high-quality hospice and palliative care.

[su_pullquote]”Despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we’ve made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn’t always enough.”[/su_pullquote]

However, I came to realize that it was arrogant of me to believe that hospice and palliative care professionals could meet all the needs of the dying.

Oregon is consistently rated among the best states for providing hospice and palliative care. Yet, even with the best care, some patients still suffer intolerably and want the option to take prescription medication to die painlessly, peacefully and quickly in their sleep.

Other medical professionals also are realizing that terminally ill adults should have access to a full range of end-of-life options. In May, the California Medical Association dropped its 28-year-long opposition to medical aid in dying, acknowledging that “despite the remarkable medical breakthroughs we’ve made and the world-class hospice or palliative care we can provide, it isn’t always enough.”

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