Opinion

Terminally ill need hospice care, not suicide

For the past 29 years, a perfectly acceptable alternative to physician-assisted suicide has been available to all, and chosen by thousands, of the terminally ill in Kitsap County.

It’s called hospice care.

Hospice of Kitsap County has been providing dignity, compassion and expert, specialized end-of-life care to thousands in Kitsap County for nearly three decades.

Hospice Care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and almost every private insurer, and it is available to anyone with a terminal illness — regardless of the diagnosis - who has six months or less to live, as certified by a physician.

Hospice care provides patients with choices in how the remainder of their lives are to be spent.

It’s all about choices, and it’s all about life.

Under hospice care, patients determine how they want to spend their final months, weeks or days of life. Hospice care supports patients’ individual goals and their opportunity to wrap up life’s business in a satisfying manner.

With hospice care, patients’ pain and symptoms are expertly managed, and they are surrounded by their loved ones in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

No one needs to die in pain or alone or in a strange environment. Hospice provides, normally at no cost to the patient, all medications necessary for pain control, care management by experienced, qualified, medical professionals who are experts in pain control and emotional support, and all the medical equipment necessary for optimum comfort.

Hospice will care for patients in their own home, anyplace they call home such as any assisted living facility or nursing home, or, if necessary or desired, care can be provided at the Hospice of Kitsap County Care Center, where specialized end-of-life care is the sole focus.

There is no reason for anyone to ever die in pain or die feeling as though they are a burden on family or friends.

When symptoms or circumstances become intolerable, effective therapies are available to assure relief from almost all forms of distress without purposefully hastening death as the means to that end.

Hospice of Kitsap County’s mission is simple — for residents of our community to be able to die with dignity, pain free, and surrounded by those they love.

Hospice follows up that care with bereavement services for the entire family for 15 months following their loved one’s death.

This period is often critical to the well-being and mental health of those left behind, though that point is often ignored or missed by those who would choose an alternative to hospice care.

Hospice care — what a beautiful gift to those of us who become terminally ill and to our families.

Under the proposed law, I-1000, anyone who would qualify for physician-assisted suicide would also qualify for hospice care. I would think that those in that position would want the peace of mind provided by hospice care rather than the emptiness which could follow a loss to an I-1000 suicide.

Jim Pledger is executive director of Hospice of Kitsap County.

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