Hospice, Not Suicide, Is The Gentle ResponseIn response to...


January 16, 1994

Hospice, Not Suicide, Is The Gentle Response

In response to Rev. George Paul Mocko's thoughtful letter to the editor dated Jan. 1, the member Hospices of the Hospice Network of Maryland respectfully suggest that for those facing a terminal illness, there is an alternative to suicide. That alternative is hospice.

Hospice means hope -- hope to die with dignity, hope to die pain-free, hope to die with loved ones nearby, hope to die at home if desired. By providing physical, emotional and spiritual support, we endeavor to alleviate the stress and distress that causes suicidal ideation.

Some hospice patients and family members have expressed suicidal tendencies but with the compassionate support of the hospice team of social workers, chaplains, nursing staff and volunteers, they are often able to resolve the issues causing the desire to terminate life.

The emotional ramifications for those left behind after a suicide are far-reaching. Rev. Mocko described the suicide of a cancer ++ patient who shot himself so that, while caring for him, his wife's health would not be depleted. Was that suicide as free of stress as Bishop Mocko believes? After such a violent death, could either the person who found the body or the patient's family really have felt peace and relief? . . . Hospice's solution to a spouse who is "burned out" is to offer multiple levels of support through volunteers, nursing support and respite care. We are well aware that caring for a loved one who is facing death is stressful and may cause the caregiver's health to suffer. But hospice volunteers and staff members care for the patient and family as a unit and are concerned with the caregiver's mental and physical health as well as patient's. . . .

As Bishop Mocko has, hospices have supported patients and/or families as they made decisions regarding the discontinuance of life-sustaining procedures. Often uncertainty and guilt plague those having to decide. Hospice can help them feel comfortable in not prolonging illness while at the same time doing nothing to hasten death. Staffed by skilled health care professionals, hospice provides state-of-the-art pain and symptom management. The hospice team helps ease the burden and lessen the stress so that the natural end of life can be filled with meaning, value, purpose and dignity. . . .

Kathleen A. Bare


The writer is chairwoman of the public information committee for the Hospice Network of Maryland.

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