Letters To The Editor


May 26, 2004

End-of-life care certainly fulfills a spiritual role

The Rev. John William Klein's concerns that the "secular mission" of Joseph Richey House hospice has been emphasized at the expense of the spiritual mission points to his fundamental and disturbing lack of understanding about hospice care ("Feud threatens to close AIDS hospice in city," May 21).

The spiritual care of persons with terminal illnesses is so crucial to our end-of-life care that a pastoral care representative is an integral and equal member of our interdisciplinary team, attending weekly team meetings, contributing to the plan of care, and ministering to all patients who desire clergy visits. The pastoral care team is an ecumenical group of volunteers from many denominations, including Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Methodist, Lutheran, Jehovah's Witness, Jewish, Muslim and other faith groups.

But providing spiritual care extends beyond the formal pastoral care provided by our volunteers. The very acts of hospice care - bathing patients, providing skin care, turning and positioning them, feeding them, giving them sips of water when swallowing is difficult, gently cleansing and dressing malignant wounds, administering medications to relieve pain and other symptoms, holding patients' hands, listening to their fears and concerns, supporting patients' family and friends during the journey - are all physical expressions of spiritual care.

When we enter a patient's room to provide hospice care - whether in the patient's home, our inpatient unit, a nursing home or a prison infirmary - we stand on sacred ground.

We are humbled by the awesome responsibility to provide care as we accompany a person and their family along this final journey and facilitate the greatest quality of life in their remaining time.

And we are blessed in our roles as hospice care providers, for we are very much like Pietas - tenderly holding and comforting those whose bodies are broken by cancer, AIDS, cardiac disease, dementia or other terminal illnesses.

Nancy Woods


The writer is the clinical director of Joseph Richey House.

The article "Feud threatens to close AIDS hospice in city" presents a sad dispute between Mount Calvary Church and the nuns who assist in running Joseph Richey House, an AIDS and cancer hospice.

The church contends the hospice has strayed from its original spiritual mission. But sometimes a mission has to change as the needs of society change. And I cannot think of a more sacred outreach than giving loving, palliative care to dying AIDS patients.

Dorian Borsella


As an employee of the Joseph Richey House hospice for nearly four years, I have witnessed the extraordinary comfort and care provided to hundreds of dying patients every year. These patients are served without regard to financial resources, race or religion.

I am honored and proud to work for an organization that serves these patients and their families during one of the most difficult times of their lives.

I can think of no better way to be a witness for my faith (or any faith) than to provide the truly loving and expert care that we give to our patients.

I may not preach from a pulpit, but I do God's work every day.

Erin Balthis


Everyone has duty to protect fetal life

The writer of the letter "Let women decide about abortion" (May 21) argues that only the "woman should be able to decide individually what use is to be made of her body." No men or "so-called pro-lifers" should interfere.

That idea would make perfect sense if this "use" was not actually protecting the life of another human being. And by deciding not to "use" her body as a home for her pre-born child, a pregnant woman also decides to terminate the life of that child.

Most women who have abortions do so because they sincerely believe they have no other choice or for what appear to be extremely good reasons.

But no matter how impossible the situation is, that does not make the child in the womb any less human than the letter writer, you or me.

It does not matter if one is a woman, a man or a child. We are duty-bound to do all that we can to protect those most defenseless among us, especially children in the womb.

Eric Pierce


International inquiry on detainees' deaths

The Sun reported that U.S. Army criminal investigators are looking into the deaths of at least 37 detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two years ("Army discovers an increase in detainee deaths," May 22).

It appears that the question is not merely one of abuse and torture, but of mass murder, or at least multiple reckless homicides. And it appears that these killings were condoned at the highest levels. Yet who is investigating these deaths? The Army.

These cases should be turned over to an international tribunal, just as we would demand if 37 Americans had been killed by a foreign nation.

The United States may never regain its credibility or its honor on the world stage, but this would be a small step in the right direction.

Henry Cohen

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.