Hospice Patients Alliance: Consumer Advocates

Involuntary Euthanasia Case Eight

Colleen Meland who describes what happened to her mother August 27th through September 3, 2007. She writes that:

"I intended to forward my own testimonial before now, three years later, but my investigative undertakings, and unfruitful effort to take action against parties responsible for her mistreatment, as well as the continued emotional pain I endure reflecting on the ugly progression of events that prematurely took my mother's life, caused me to postpone sharing this information sooner. I finally feel the inclination to bring some closure to this difficult phase of my life and want to validate the work Hospice Patients Alliance pursues to educate and warn individuals about the current practices and trends in terminal and end-of-life medical care."

Colleen Meland Reports: My Mother who had COPD
Was Given Large Doses of Morphine and Terminally-Sedated to Death!

When I began documenting my concerns about the questionable quality of care my mother received under hospice care the last week of her life, (immediately following her release from the hospital in improved physical condition from when she was admitted) I wondered, "Are there not other individuals in my situation, feeling that a loved one's best interests were neglected, in being provided legitimate medical care to allow continued survival and a natural, more extended, digression towards death from the terminal disease?"

I did an internet search and discovered the Hospice Patients Alliance website. This website validated my fears and suspicions that my mother was likely the victim of foul hospice practices.

When I read the testimony about a "Mother Killed by Hospice with Morphine Overdose," I felt as though I was reading a commentary by someone mirroring my personal experience, but realized that my experience actually mirrored hers because her account preceded mine. It was disturbingly unsettling to read her quoting statements made to her by hospice caretakers that verbatim reflected statements made to me by the hospice nurses caring for my mother prior to her quick death:

"My mother was recently a hospice patient in ___________, she had chronic lung disease (C.O.P.D.) which we all expected would eventually take her life. However, while under hospice care she died of acute morphine intoxication."

"Since she was under hospice, and also considered terminal, I don't know how serious it will be taken. However, I now know that this is not an isolated case, and feel it's probably happening to others as well. What I find particularly disturbing is that my mother did not want to take the Roxanol and that's what caused her death."

Hospice similarly insisted that my mother, in the absence of severe pain and not gasping for air, be given routine, not "PRN" (as needed) doses of Morphine in the form of Roxanol. I trust that were my mother's body exhumed and an autopsy performed, similar evidence of morphine overdose would be presented

Terminal Sedation of My Mother

I have become increasingly aware that deceptive means are practiced by medical caregivers, particularly within hospice organizations to end the lives of the vulnerable. Sedation without hydration is used to intentionally cause death. Misapplication of a treatment occurs imposing death without the outward appearance that killing is occurring. As was the case of my mother's hospice treatment, she as the patient was too sedated to question, and family members such as myself realized within three days too late what had happened.

I have since read that sedation given with no hydration causes the circulatorysystem to collapse for lack of fluid. British physician Dr. Gillian Craig, MD has warned about the practices of sedation without hydration in her book,"Challenging Medical Ethics: No Water — No Life." To administer potentially lethal medication when there is no complaint of pain, even increasing its doses, is in my opinion and that of many others, an act of murder.

When my mother was released from the hospital, August 27th, she was not actively dying due to the natural disease process. Her sedation, and dehydration lending to her circulatory collapse was imposed death,involuntary euthanasia!

I have since become informed that the diet of Morphine and Ativan are a lethal combination. "If one won't kill you, the other will." (Ron Panzer, lifeissues.net) Morphine administered without food or water causes an overdose, sending the blood pressure plummeting and slowing breathing. Without water given to the patient, fluid volume in the blood decreased, blood pressure drops more and the circulatory system collapses.

My mother had not been experiencing terminal agitation, delirium, or severe anxiety related to her respiratory disease at the time the lead nurse recommended administering Roxanol, and at the time three days later when her morphine dosage was increased. I have no doubt, now, that it lead to her quick physical deterioration and death within less than 72 hours.

It is my understanding that hospice is to neither hasten death, nor attempt to cure the underlying terminal illness. The Hospice Pledge (accompanying) in my opinion was violated in my mother's case.

"Hospice nurses kept insisting that it would help her breathe... The nurses claimed that in small doses, morphine actually would make her breathing much easier."

Precisely what I was told!

"Consequently, she ... agreed to take it, and" I encouraged "her to do so based on what the hospice kept telling" me. I "trusted them!"

"My mom agreed to become a hospice patient primarily because she totally depended on bottled oxygen to breathe." ... "Since hospice claims to have "physician services" available and her attending" hospital "physician appeared to be in favor of her signing up for hospice, she agreed."

My own mother's introduction of Roxanol was initiated by the first shift hospice nurse, who simply shoved it into her mouth.

My mother began having respiratory irregularities within 16 hours ofthe morphine regimen being introduced to her system. I was never advised that respiratory suppression and difficulties were a symptom of overdose and that the morphine administration should be discontinued in the event these conditions developed. Nor was I aware that an antidote drug to counteract a morphine overdose ["Narcan"] existed.

I had been told how very sick my mother was by the hospice nurse, so thought her decline was because of her being sicker than I perceived her to be at the time she was released from the hospital in seemingly improved, good condition. I didn't suspect or recognize my mom's declining conditions as being the symptoms of overdose. The nurses attending to my mother did nothing to counteract the effects of her overdose condition. In fact, I had been told to administer an additional dose of the Roxanol were she to exhibit respiratory distress, that it would help her through the episode.

Two days before my mother died, when her ability to chew and swallow diminished as she attempted to eat lunch, and soon after at which time the nurse discontinued any effort to continue introduction of both food and fluids to her (the reason given that she might aspirate on them). No I.V. treatment was suggested nor provided for her. It was implied to me that she was actively dying (a surprise to me, as the day before, prior to her morphine dose being increased, I was told she no longer justified continuous care support).

From information disclosed to me within days of her death, I have no doubt now that she was deliberately overdosed in the face of my naiveté and ignorance all the while being led to believe her physical decline was a natural progression because of her very sick condition.

I know now, having reviewed her hospital records from her care just prior to her release into the hospice care, that her condition was definitely stable and certainly not of serious concern to doctors Rae and Sheldon who attended to her while in the hospital. Dr. Sheldon even recommended follow-up care in his office following her release from the hospital and return home.

I feel strongly that my mother was overdosed on morphine by those I trusted to help me with her care. I am willing to have her body exhumed to verify this contention. Furthermore, I feel that I was betrayed and duped. It is personally devastating for me to realize that I unknowingly had a hand in administering the medication that contributed to my mother's premature, not natural death. It had been my ongoing effort to provide the very best medical and physical care for my mother. I now feel I failed her miserably.

Although I had concerns about the morphine being given to my mother in the absence of intolerable discomfort, I had no knowledge at the time the Roxanol treatment was recommended by hospice, to supposedly "help her breathe easier," that morphine tends to be contraindicated with C.O.P.D. patients, especially the elderly. Had I known this fact, I certainly would have refused its administration, and would have seriously considered terminating the agency's services at that time.

My first impression of the hospice care was negative. I had developed personal reservations about the agencies ulterior motives, after the disturbing remarks of the first shift hospice nurse who was eager to drug her up. He stated that my mother was very sick, recommended discontinuing her regular medicine regimen to go straight to the end-of-life packet, and told my mother's personal caretaker that my mother would be dead in a week. I was then erroneously reassured by the team's lead nurse, and an agency nurse I spoke to over the telephone, that it wasn't the agency's objective to intentionally push my mother to her end sooner than later.

My mother's personal caretaker (who was present daily between 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily throughout the entire week while hospice was present caring for my mother) can verify my assertions. I kept her informed about what I discussed at the dining room table with the hospice team leader, when she wasn't present to hear the discussion herself (times she was in the bedroom near my mother).

                                                         - Colleen Meland

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