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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Lying by Pretending Hospice Doesn’t Exist



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I once complained to my wife about how frustrated I was that euthanasia activists lie. She replied that if they are willing to kill, they are certainly going to be willing to lie.

I thought of that nugget of wisdom reading a column in The Guardian by Bronnie Ware, a  pro euthanasia palliative nurse who lies by omission (or is inexcusably ignorant of hospice)–another frequent tactic in assisted suicide advocacy. From, “I Regret the Way We Are Dying:”

Many were initially terrified of dying or would spend some time in denial of what was to come. As their suffering increased however, even those in denial came not only to accept their inevitable passing, but to wish for it. I cannot count the amount of times I heard, “I just wish I could die”.

Having witnessed many different deaths, there is no doubt that the physical suffering of a dying person is cruel and unnecessary. If someone allows their pet to suffer that much, it is called animal cruelty. Yet, we allow our fellow humans, people with the ability to clearly express their desire to die, to continue to suffer.

It is shameful that Ware leaves the impression that nothing can be done in these situations other than let these patient who just “want to die” to suffer on with out intervention or just give morphine and wait. But that is flatly not true.

Hospice experts–again not the same thing as a palliative nurse–know that the “I want to die now” problem is often treatable and can generally be ameliorated. They do it all the time.

They also know that a request for suicide can be a statement that something more needs to be done. Thus an essential aspect of hospice–almost as important as symptom control–can be suicide prevention.

As a hospice volunteer I have seen such interventions in action. I have seen the “I want to die now” wail change to “I wouldn’t have missed this time for anything!” Indeed, that is almost a hospice cliche.

And this paragraph really reveals the core mendacity of her piece!

Dying is not only a physical experience, but also an emotional one. So rather than finding solutions only through intellect, we need to consider the feelings of those who are dying.

With the subject of death so taboo in our society, it is heartbreaking to see the isolation that a patient experiences when having to deal with the emotions associated with their approaching passing. This is why the idea for end-of-life midwives makes so much sense.

But hospice is precisely about ensuring that patients don’t die in isolation. Good grief.

The founder of hospice, the great medical humanitarian Dame Cecily Saunders, was adamantly opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. She told me that facilitating killing denies the intrinsic dignity of the dying patient. (It should also be noted that some “dying” patients don’t and get kicked out of hospice. I have seen that too).

The harm that misleading articles such as Ware’s cause–by killing hope–will never be measured. But there is hope. Even in the most dire circumstances as life comes to a close.



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