Hospice and Palliative Care Month: Neither Hastens Nor Prevents

Three female nurses stand outside in bright light in front of a building. They wear blue, white, and red long sleeve shirts and blue surgical masks. They hold their hands up forming a heart.
Photo by Rusty Watson on Unsplash

Hospice and palliative care neither hasten nor prevent death, as founded by Dame Cicely Saunders. The vast majority of those who work in hospice and palliative care practice according to this philosophy. Assisted suicide proponents, however, are trying to co-opt this medical speciality and make killing patients part of relieving their pain.

The top five reasons patients pursue assisted suicide are existential and psychological, while physical pain is the sixth reason. Patients want to hasten death because they feel like a burden on family and caregivers, they feel loss of dignity, experience loss of autonomy and bodily functions, and are less able to engage in the activities that make life more enjoyable. The gold standard of hospice and palliative care can relieve these pressure points through emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical care and support. But with disparities and inequity in healthcare, many people do not have access to the gold standard and are left with very few choices available, making suicide seem like the best option.

Thank you to all hospice and palliative care workers who offer critical support, care, relief and comfort to patients and affirm their value and inherent dignity every day.


Related: Essay: “Euthanasia and assisted dying: the illusion of autonomy”

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