Hospice Patients Alliance: Consumer Advocacy

The Greatest Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time!

1/31/02 [updated 3/28/2011]    by Ron Panzer

When historians look back at our time, I believe the greatest civil rights struggle identified will NOT be for the rights of ethnic minorities.

The greatest struggle of our time is for life, existence itself. Patients who are harmed or worse in a health care setting may never be able to access the system of justice in our nation.

The moment anyone enters into the health care system, in reality, you forfeit your rights as identified in the law, in the Bill of Rights or the US Constitution. On the books you retain your rights, but what actually happens is quite different.

Perhaps you have not thought about this, but prosecutors on every level have "discretion" about what cases to pursue. They do not normally go after wrongdoing in the health care setting. They do not usualy indict a respected physician within their own community. There is great reluctance to intervene at all. There are so many cases that many complaints are simply filed away and not only are charges not brought, but no investigation for criminal activity is done!

If by any chance you are accidentally "killed" in a health care facility, the problem will quite often not be addressed by a criminal prosecutor. Even if the killing is intentional, quite often government bureaucrats who deal with regulations will be brought in to inspect the facility. The facility may get "cited" for a violation of a standard of care, but almost never will criminal charges be brought. District attorneys, state attorneys and US prosecutors have not acted to protect the citizens of our nations, once the killing occurs in a health care setting. The one or two cases you may read about are the exceptional cases, and even then, charges brought may not result in conviction.

The mission of hospice is to serve those nearing the end of life by relieving suffering, offering compassionate care in the best spirit of all that is good in humanity. Those who would pervert the mission of hospice are using hospice as a wedge to corrupt our nation's health care system. By shunting patients into hospice when they are not terminally ill or by hastening death in the terminally ill, a step down the wrong path has been taken by some. This betrayal of the hospice mission fits in quite well with budgetary savings for governments and HMOs. Family members who seek to get their hands on the inheritance before funds are used up in caring for an ailing family member, sometimes make the decision to hasten death and use hospice as the tool to do the killing. Unwitting and naive nurses sometimes just go along without questioning.

Some physicians and nurses are aware of what is occurring, but some still comply because they believe they know better that "this patient would be better off dead" than to live with a particular illness.

Those who have Alzheimers disease, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia or who are elderly or chronically ill are particularly vulnerable to this threat. How we choose to react to these troubling developments says a lot about what kind of person we are. Those who have a conscience and turn away without coming to protect the vulnerable will be haunted for the rest of their lives. Those who have a conscience and work to protect the vulnerable will learn some of the richest lessons in life.

The agenda of those pushing to use hospice as a wedge to transform health care? ... budgetary savings and the fulfillment of a utilitarian bioethicist view which views life as "not worth living" once a person becomes very old, weak, chronically ill or somehow "imperfect" in the eyes of those who decide. Who decides? Ethics committees that institute "futile care protocols" that not only stop the provision of truly "futile" care, but also stop the provision of necessary care... care that once given would successfully save a patient or cure a condition. Who decides? Nurses, doctors and others who choose to withhold care or give medically inappropriate care resulting in the death of a patient. It happens every day.

So remember this, every time you or a family member enter the health care system, the only thing standing between you and death or harm is the integrity of the staff at the facility and someone close to the patient... you, a friend or loved one. You are the advocate who can protect the patient in the moment.

In our continuing effort to help preserve the mission of hospice, we are working to get individuals who are in the media spotlight to speak out against these medical killings. Write to any public figures you may think of, those who are in talk radio, the news media of all sorts.

What You Can Do!

  • Please forward this article to everyone you know.

  • If you know of problems in hospice, call or write to your Congressional representatives (See your local phone book for telephone number or look them up at Capweb.net or at Congressional Directory.
    Remember that your representatives will listen to you if they think enough voters in their district care about an issue. ?Make your voice heard!

  • Tell at least two people every week about the work of Hospice Patients Alliance.

This is an important initiative to promote open discussion of the realities in hospice! We are working to preserve the original mission of hospice. Many discuss what is to be considered "a good death." We say that health care professionals should be more concerned with "what is good palliative care?" Good end-of-life care will do the most to assure a good death. Sloppy medical or nursing care will not suffice. Pushing sedatives and narcotics for all terminally ill patient is not what hospice is about. Careful assessment of the patient's individual needs will allow for an effective plan of care that relieves distressing symptoms while fostering patient dignity.



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