Hospice Patients Alliance: Patient Advocates

Time to Wake Up, Mr. Smith!

by Ron Panzer

February 7, 2015

In his Nov, 2014 article, "Invisible National Hospice/Palliative Care Month," Wesley Smith, J.D., has complained that the hospice industry is not making the most of the opportunity presented by all the publicity being given to the issue of assisted-suicide. He writes that "a few hospices alienate those they serve, by making the service about death instead of life."

Really? Just "a few" hospices? Time to wake up to the realities, Mr. Smith! In his Feb, 2015 article, "Hospice, Defend Yourself!" Mr. Smith seems to believe that the hospice industry as a whole is threatened by the assisted-suicide movement. Mr. Smith appears to believe in a fantasy world where the original mission of hospice is still widely practiced in the United States today.

It is tragic that the realities of hospice are not what the pro-life Christian, Dame Cicely Saunders, MD, envisioned, practiced and promoted. The National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization is now the actual corporate, legal successor to the Euthanasia Society of America — easily confirmed through its name changes and corporate mergers. See the Hospice to Euthanasia Timeline and "LifeTree's Timeline Two Decades to a Culture of Death."

The reality is that some hospice professionals have publicly condemned assisted-suicide and/or euthanasia for decades and still do, however not for the reasons one would normally assume. Hospice is the rightful alternative to medical killing of either sort. Caring is the rightful alternative to medical killing, but hospice today is predominantly the covert branch of the hastened death movement. Assisted suicide and/or euthanasia legalization and practice would be the overt branch of the hastened death movement. Many hospice professionals today, while publicly condemning assisted-suicide, secretly hasten death as a stealth euthanasia. See: Stealth Euthanasia: Health Care Tyranny in America (Hospice, Palliative Care and Health Care Reform) .

The reality is that the hospice industry in the United States was very much influenced by Florence Wald, RN, MN, who was a supporter of assisted-suicide and was not a pro-life Christian. The reality is that without reverence for the Creator of all human life, without the respect for life, much of hospice was free to "evolve" into a death-dealing pit that is becoming increasingly difficult for the elderly, physically or cognitively-disabled, and chronically-ill to avoid, even if they are not terminal!

Hastened deaths occur routinely in hospices all over the country through widespread practice of "stealth euthanasia" — undeclared but certainly intended medical killing. There are hundreds of ways of hastening death even without directly overdosing a patient. Simply do any treatment or intervention improperly and you endanger the patient.

A wrong dose or wrong interval in administering a medication are obvious methods. Intentionally stopping fluids and nutrition is a decision to hasten death. Using "dirty" technique when clean or sterile technique is required for the patient's safety, is a decision to hasten death. Removing stabilizing medications from a chronically-ill patient and thereby causing acute symptoms of underlying illness is a decision to hasten death, and on and on it goes.

I've spoken with thousands of individuals, family members, patients, hospice professionals, physicians, administrators and others who confirm that hastened deaths in hospice are common today. I've searched for years to find a truly pro-life hospice that affirms the sanctify of life from the top administration level down to the staff in the field and find that they are very few and far between today, whereas they were the norm thirty years ago.

Hospice has been infiltrated by the euthanasia and assisted-suicide advocates. Those who executed Terri Schiavo, for example, include the late Mary Labyak, who was a board member of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization as well as Partnership for Caring (that Ira Byock, MD founded). Both organizations are absolutely not pro-life and are/were secular versions that fail(ed) to live up to Dame Cicely Saunders' vision. In fact, in 2001, Partnership for Caring merged with Choice in Dying which was the new name for the Society for the Right to Die, which was the new name for the Euthanasia Society of America! How obvious can it get? Ira Byock chose to merge with an organization that was the current form of the Euthanasia Society of America. Dame Cicely Saunders would be horrified and would never have done that.

Although he praises hospice industry leader, Ira Byock, MD, as a "splendid hospice physician," Mr. Smith should know that Dr Byock actually has promoted terminal sedation (along with stopping eating and drinking) to hasten death of patients within the hospice setting. He co-wrote an article with Timothy Quill, MD promoting this practice.
See: "Responding to Intractable Terminal Suffering: The Role of Terminal Sedation and Voluntary Refusal of Food and Fluids," Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000; 132:408-414. [Abstract: annals.org/content/132/5/408.abstract]

Mr. Smith should know that Dr. Byock is actually very much responsible for the tainting of the very hospice mission supported by Mr. Smith! Byock is actively promoting stealth euthanasia (through terminal sedation and stopping eating and drinking) all over the country. I have received reports from nurses that while pretending to be "pro-life," Byock makes no secret about his promotion of terminal sedation and stopping eating and drinking as "ethical"options that hospice professionals should practice and encourage!

Wesley Smith: Wake up!

It's 2015 and the hospice that is mostly practiced today is nothing like the hospice that the pro-life Christian, Dame Cicely Saunders, MD, practiced.

You cannot take the basic respect for life out of hospice (which is exactly what has been done by the industry) and still consistently provide caring service while never hastening death.

Hospice as an industry has mostly long-ago crossed the line into a faithless abyss where pushing the limits of what can be done is routine, so that hastened deaths are actually commonplace, and unfortunately, many of the general public have directly experienced this. They know more about this reality than Mr. Wesley Smith does.

I'm sorry to be so disappointed in these articles. You should know better and must know better! You have access to the truth and the research has been done. The reports are in and have been coming in to every patient advocacy organization in the country! Why hide the truth? Why write as if the illusion of hospice is real? Hospice can be wonderful! But in most cases today, in most agencies today, it is not. Time to wake up, Mr. Smith! If you truly believe in human exceptionalism and human dignity, start warning the public about the dangerous realities so they can protect their loved ones!

Cicely Saunders prayed to the dear Lord Jesus Christ at the beginning of every day with every staff member at her St. Christopher's Hospice in London, England. The late Florence Wald and Ira Byock never encouraged that as standard practice at hospice agencies! They did not, and Byock does not, speak about the sanctity of life so that death is never hastened within healthcare settings. Cicely Saunders said to the patients:

"You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.
We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die."
That included the idea that we will affirm the value of your life, having reverence for your life, recognizing the dear Lord's presence within you, a child created by God! Byock and Wald's version of hospice is a dark counterfeit of Dame Cicely Saunders vision and you should know better, Mr. Smith!

Wald and Byock never condemned all forms of hastening death!

Mr. Smith, you have sorely missed the point in your articles: the mainstream hospice industry today is the covert branch of the euthanasia movement and does not condemn assisted-suicide because its members support and approve of assisted-suicide and will offer it at their hospices should it be legalized in any state or nation, just as they already do in Oregon, for example. They do not see that hastened death is antithetical to the original mission that Dame Cicely Saunders taught and practiced. They don't care.

If you wish to educate the public, do your homework first and see the reality, not a fantasy! As a wise teacher has shown me, "you can't teach what you don't know!"

Ron Panzer
President, Hospice Patients Alliance

Also see:

Stealth Euthanasia: Healthcare Tyranny in America, by Ron Panzer, 2011, Hospice Patients Alliance.

Restoring the Culture of Life (The Ethics of Life In Healthcare and Society), by Ron Panzer, 2013, Hospice Patients Alliance.

To get involved, contact us at Hospice Patients Alliance, the Pro-life Healthcare Alliance and its member organizations and join us.

If you are a nurse, become a member of the National Association of Pro Life Nurses. Get involved! Support the work, and help those so much in need!

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