Denver, Colo., Oct 11, 2016 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Colorado ballot proposal to legalize assisted suicide relies too much on fear and anxiety and ignores the ways better hospice care can provide for the terminally ill, a local hospice leader has said.
“Hospice is the antidote to physician assisted suicide because it’s a highly specialized area of medicine that focuses on education, symptom management and compassionate support,” said Kevin Lundy, CEO at the Colorado-based Divine Mercy Supportive Care.
He warned that the promotion of assisted suicide ignores realities at the end of life.
“People are amazingly resilient and every terminal illness situation is completely different based on the individual responses to the disease and the treatment they're receiving,” Lundy said.
“People facing end of life can be inspiring, more honest than any time in their lives and completely selfless,” he added. “Their pain truly is manageable, but fear and anxieties have a tendency to impact ‘others’ who strive to alleviate all suffering for their loved ones.”
This year, Colorado voters will weigh the ballot proposal Proposition 106, known as the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act. It would allow an adult at least 18 years of age with a terminal illness to request a lethal prescription from his or her physician. The person must be deemed mentally competent and two physicians must diagnosis the person as having of six months or fewer to live. The measure also requires that such adults self-administer the drug, called secobarbital, which is also used for lethal injections in some states.
Lundy objected that the proposed law would require physicians “to lie on death certificates” and not recognize suicide as a cause of death. The law requires physicians to list a patient’s underlying condition, not suicide.
The ballot measure would have a broader impact, given trends in society and government, he predicted.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010, for instance, stops federal funding for individuals over age 80.
“When you begin to look at cost as a primary driver of care, then you find yourself operating in an environment where those without perceived value (by government or insurance companies, or others) are pressured into taking the cheaper way out,” Lundy commented.
He worried that legal assisted suicide could lead to a situation where hospices are forced to allow assisted suicide procedures or lose funding from government or private insurance. There could be legal action from patients who believe a refusal to provide assisted suicide violates their rights.
Lundy emphasized that Divine Mercy Care would never provide assisted suicide services, as it violates Catholic ethics and religion.
“Our hospice agency cares for individuals regardless of their financial abilities and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Depression can be a problem for people with a terminal illness, especially where they suffer a lack of faith or support from a “loving” community or hospice program, Lundy reported.
“Sometimes people are suddenly aware they’re going to die and need time to process that reality. Other times, they are afraid of being alone or leaving their loved ones alone,” he said. “Because dying has become a taboo subject in our culture, depression accompanies fear, anxiety and uncertainty.”
According to Lundy, a “loving and faith-based approach” like that of Divine Mercy Care can help diminish these fears and anxieties. The hospice often witnesses depression “transition into joy, acceptance and a celebration of life.”
Education about hospice would better help people with terminal illnesses, Lundy said. Only about half of individuals eligible for hospice benefits under Medicare are aware of it, with minority communities in particular lacking knowledge.
“Many people still believe that hospice is simply too expensive or that they have to leave their homes to be cared for,” he said. “In fact, it’s all provided at no cost to the patient, or the patients’ family, and it is provided wherever the person resides.”