Hospice Leaders Upset Euthanasia Advocate Compares Care to Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Hospice Leaders Upset Euthanasia Advocate Compares Care to Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 4
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In defending members of his euthanasia group who may have engaged in killing more than 200 people via assisted suicide, a lawyer for the Final Exit Network compared hospice with assisted suicide. Leaders of hospice groups that provide care to terminally ill patients are upset by the remarks.

Michael Kaminkow, who is defending two of the Final Exit Network assisted suicide defendants, has engaged in what some are calling slander against the hospice system.

"Whatever happened here is no more than what happened in a hospice," Kaminkow said of those who have been arrested in connection with a multi-state FBI sting operation. "In reality, a hospice is a suicide. It’s just a little slower."

The statement has caused a fury of reaction, including comments from J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

"Hospice compassionately cares for people who are near the close of life–but hospice isn’t about how you die, it’s about how you live. Hospice and palliative care focuses on how dying persons and their loved ones live each day, providing comfort and guidance along the way," Schumacher says in a press statement.

"The quote from that news article demonstrates a callous disregard for all those who receive care, including family caregivers, from our nation’s hospice programs," he added.

David Simpson, the director of the Cleveland-based Hospice of the Western Reserve, is also upset.

"Associating hospice and assisted suicide is not legitimate," he said. "It demonstrates, at best, a superficial understanding of hospice care and, at worst, an effort to use hospice as camouflage for a pending courtroom battle."

"The hospice movement in the United States is now 30 years old. My own work at Hospice of the Western Reserve began nearly 25 years ago. In our entire history, hospice has never been equated with assisted suicide," he added.

"The goal of hospice care is to enhance both comfort and quality of life for one’s remaining time without extending life or hastening death. Hospice care focuses on what people want during their crowning phase of life," Simpson said.

Wesley J. Smith noted the controversy and said he understands that some problems happen in a hospice setting, as they do in other places like hospitals and nursing homes, but he says hospice is a good thing for patients who might be tempted to kill themselves when faced with a debilitating medical condition.

"I am aware of the stories of abuse in some hospice cases. They make me sick, but I don’t believe they are typical," the noted author and attorney says.

"But I have been a hospice volunteer. I have seen the tremendous good it does, including with my own father who died in hospice care from colon cancer," Smith explained.

"A wonderful friend who died of breast cancer a few years ago, received such good care she and her husband were able to enjoy a lingering lunch at her favorite restaurant with [my wife] and me only two or three days before she died at home surrounded by her family," he added.

"Hospice is important. It is truly compassionate. It must not be corrupted with the assisted suicide virus. I am glad that the NHPCO leadership felt strongly enough about this respond to that lawyer’s nonsense," Smith concluded.

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