Some Think Hospice Kills

“Hospice kills!” that appeared on my website under what do you want me to talk about. At first I was surprised but then I realized that yes, some people actually believe that hospice kills. Upon refection I started asking myself why that is a perception? How did we get to the place where people think we kill our patients because they die.

My answer is multifaceted. It is in part because people don’t understand there is a process to dying from disease and old age therefore how a person dies looks awful and scary. It is because end of life care is different than caring for someone who is going to get better that we think the care being provided is causing harm. It is because our medical profession is perceived as fixing people, no matter how sick the person is. Hospice care has then failed, has let the person die when death comes.

We have come to expect and believe that if only more treatment had been given, mom would still be alive. If only narcotics had not been used, mom would still be alive. If only mom had been fed, had been given IV fluids she would still be alive. All these beliefs and thoughts are because most people are uneducated about the dying process. Other people die, I am not going to die and neither is anyone close to me is our thought. We are ostriches with our heads in the sand and then one day we are faced with dying, our own or someone close to us, and we are unprepared.

Yes, hospice kills reflects general ignorance but whose responsibility is it to teach the difference between real life and TV? I’d say it is us, the health care providers, the doctors, nurses and social workers, that are interacting with the patient during their disease process.

It would be ideal if all health care professionals understood the natural dying process. If all understood that death comes to everyone, that there is a time to treat and a time to stop. That there is a time to explain that death cannot be forestalled and here is what happens now. But that isn’t always the case.

When I first read Hospice kills my thought was hospice is not doing their job of educating well enough--and yes, I do feel that is an element here but I also believe as I said earlier that it is not just for us who work in end of life to teach but all medical professionals. If health care across the board recognizes that death is a part of living, that death will come and is not a failure but a normal natural progression, then ALL will teach that hospice helps people LIVE until they are dead. ALL will support the philosophy and recommend hospice care in a timely manner.

Misinformation about narcotics is huge in relation to “hospice kills". Our society today has a lot of fear round drug use, addiction, and overdosing. We see misuse of drugs daily on the news. Most people don’t understand regular, acute pain management and narcotic use, let alone end of life pain management and narcotic use. It is another Blog post to explain end of life pain management BUT I can assure you Hospice personnel are experts in appropriate comfort care.

Another aspect to consider is that from a practical, monetary stand point it makes no sense for a hospice agency to “kill” its patients. Hospice is reimbursed for every day that the patient is alive. The most money spent on a patient is in the first few days and the last few days. It is the space in between where extra monies balance out. Hospices want their patients to live months. That is how the bills are paid.

The word “kill” as defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary is “to cause someone or something to die.” dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/.../... Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary kill definition, meaning, what is kill: to cause someone or something to die...

Hospice does not cause death. Disease causes death. Hospice does allow death to occur in its normal, natural time frame in the most humane, non suffering manner possible. Hospice does not hasten death but unlike its counterpart (dying in an acute care setting), it doesn’t try to prolong approaching death either.

Something More about Some Think Hospice Kills...

The Final Act of Living, clarifies what hospice does, and doesn't do. I share stories of how I came to be a hospice nurse, what it was like to be a hospice nurse in the early days, and some my profound experiences with certain patients. It paints the picture of all you can expect from hospice.

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45 comments

Nancy

My mom just went into hospice care 5 days ago..basically the dr said if you don’t let us sedate her, she has to go back to the nursing facility. At this point, WHY? Just hurty up and kill them off is the attitude they have. She is 88 and has pneumonia, parkinsons and many other issues. Basically the hospital put her put when they got tired of giving her meds. Hospice will also put you out if you don’t agree to their terms of drugging someone up till they die. I believe hospice does accelerate a persons death with drugs. They don’t like you to call it SEDATION..shame on our healthcare system all the way around..its sickening that you can’t die in a hospital lime before . there was no FREAKING HOSPICE !
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BK Books replied:
Nancy, I hear your frustration. Healthcare has changed so much and a lot of it is related to regulations saying what can and can’t be done, as well as how long you have to do it, in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and yes, even hospices. My thoughts are that the patient and their families often get lost in and even hurt by “the system”. I disagree, however, with your assessment of hospice, pain medicine and ending lives. Blessings to you during this challenging time. Barbara

barbara

Pat, what a horrific experience! I hope you have contacted the hospice administrator and told her/him what happened. They can’t change what occurred but it may give them guidance to prevent a similar situation from happening. I am so sorry these are the memories you are now living with. Blessings! Barbara

Pat

Hospice killed my husband. The night before, at the hospital, he was eating and drinking ,alert, oriented, talking with me. I signed to hospice believing that he at least will have 6 months to live and who knows he could get better. He arrived home with hospice, talking, alert no pain. 1/2 hour later the nurse of death comes and gave him morphine and Ativan and he never regained full alertness again. They keep giving him morphine and was dead 13 hours later. He went from talking, alert, oriented x 3 to dying within a short period of time. He did have lung cancer, but the doctors didn’t expect him to die in hours at the hospital they said not too much time, but enough time to put in order his affairs and now he is dead.
I would never recommend hospice unless you want assisted suicide.

Barbara

Jack, thank you for sharing your experiences. I am sorry your father and your family had the horrific experience that you had with a hospice. You are doing the appropriate thing in reporting the incident to medicare. I suggest you also have a sit down with the director of the hospice. They need to know what occurred so policies can be changed, staff can be re-educated and/or reprimanded and inappropriateness addressed.
My blessings are with you and your family. Barbara

Jack

I’ve had two experiences with Hospice.
My mother in law received excellent care in her last days. She lived a few weeks after coming home. The Hospice employees were beyond helpful and kind.
I was expecting my father to have a similar experience.
He lived a week after being diagnosed with cancer.
He only lived one day after a medical professional started holding him down to get the medication down.
It’s taken a while to realize that their care was something else. Was it assisted sucicide, euthanasia, or murder?
The day before he died their was 21 people in his home. He was having a party. No pain colmplaints.
They held this strong man down to give him the drugs.
I am going to file a complaint with Medicare and a civil suite for wrongful death.
My hope is to prevent these “professionals” from being involved in other deaths.
Poor, poor care.
There was four soiled pads left under the bed and syringes were left on the kitchen counter.

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