Ending the Hospice ‘Cruel Choice’

At last, some good news on the health-care front!

Dying patients who want hospice are compelled to make what I call the “cruel choice” between the benefits of that specialized care and curative/life-extending treatments. The consequence has been people waiting far too long to accept hospice because it is seen as an “abandon hope, all ye who enter here” situation.

Now, Medicare is testing doing away with that ridiculous dichotomy. From the New York Times story:

The new pilot program, designed to affect the care of about 150,000 Medicare patients over the next four years, will allow patients with terminal diseases to receive hospice care to manage suffering and counseling to plan for the end of life — but still see doctors and get medical treatments, like chemotherapy or hospitalization, intended to fight their illnesses.

The test program is based on research that shows that patients with access to both so-called palliative care and traditional medicine often end up with a better quality of life and less expensive, intense medical treatment. The approach may even offer the patients a longer life span than those treated with traditional medicine alone.

So let it be written! So let it be done!

One further note: I sometimes hear from people who despair that a hospice they are considering refuses to accept patients with feeding tubes.

Part of the reason for that is the fear it will be considered life-extending treatment, inviting a government investigation. Doing away with the cruel choice would also obliterate that excuse for refusing to maintain people’s lives nutritionally in hospice who want to be so maintained.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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