Opinion: Hospice Care Versus Physician-Assisted Suicide

Hospice care is not about killing patients. Physician-assisted suicide is about killing patients.

Hospice care is defined as a program for individuals diagnosed by 2 physicians, with 6 months or less to live, should the disease run its current course.Hospice care gives support to that individual with a focus on comfort and quality of life for as long as possible surrounded by family and friends at home. Hospice care has been misunderstood by far too many healthcare professionals and private citizens since its beginning. This is why education is vital to the individuals who so desperately need this service.

Hospice Care Takes a Team
The hospice chosen by the family will have an interdisciplinary team. This team is made up of a physician, registered nurse, home health aide, social worker, chaplain, bereavement counselor, and volunteer. There is also a triage nurse available 24 hours day. A continuous care team made up of nurses or home health aides to stay at the patient’s bedside in a time of medical crisis, until the crisis is resolved. Hospice cares for the patients and families regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or ability to pay.nurse comforts patient

Hospice is made up of some of the most compassionate individuals in the world. The hospice employees see their job as a calling. They will care for the terminally ill patient and family as though they were caring for a member of their own family.

What is Physician Assisted Suicide?
Physician-Assisted Suicide is defined by Merriam Webster as, suicide by patient facilitated by means (as a drug prescription) or by information (as an indication by a lethal dosage) provided by a physician aware of the patient’s intent. This is illegal in most states. In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling on physician-assisted suicide that would leave the vote up to the individual state. Oregon voters decided to approve this for their state. Washington State, Montana, Vermont, California followed later. 3

Let me make myself very clear on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Hospice care does not kill patients. There are 5,800 different hospice companies in the United States. Some are small local and some are large national companies. Some are non-profit and some are for-profit. The hospice companies are all owned by different entities that may have different objectives for beginning a business.

Recently, an administrator of a hospice company, in the Dallas area was indicted by the FBI for telling his nurses to kill patients by overdosing them with morphine. This administrator’s profession is as an accountant. This is an example of who should never be given permission to be in a position of authority over healthcare professionals and terminally ill patients. This is the one reason why the average person who has never had a family member or friend on hospice service sees hospice as killers.

Greed is defined by Merriam Webster as a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed. 5 Those that see hospice care solely as a business should not be allowed to start a business in healthcare, and definitely not one in hospice care.

SEE ALSO: Earn CE: End-of-Life Decisions

Death is Part of Life
Death is defined by Merriam Webster, as a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life. Death, is a natural part of life, just as being born. We are born into a family, who we hope will love and care for us, and teach us morals and respect for to pass to the next generation. We do not know where our journey in life will take us.

As you learn what end-of-life care options are available, try to remember, no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Live your life to the fullest, one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. We do realize, as we age, we have a choice. We will have a choice how we live our lives and who we will share our lives with. These precious choices are based on the morals and values of the family given to us at birth and throughout our formative years. We don’t ask to be born and therefore we don’t have the right to choose our death or someone else’s death. Life and death is the business of God. He does not consult anyone on the reason for the way we die or his timing of death.


1. Hospice care definition – Medicine Net- Health and Medical.http://medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=24267. May 13, 2016

2. “Physician-assisted Suicide.” Merriam-Webster.com.

3. “State by State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide.” ProCon.org. October 5, 2015

4. Gordon, Scott. FBI: Frisco Hospice Owner Directed Nurses to Overdose Patients. NBC DFW Channel 5.
http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/FBI-Frisco-Hospice-Owner-Directed-Nurses-to-Overdose-Patients-373933951.htm006C. March 29, 2016

5. “Greed.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster

6. “Death.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster

Ellen Jane Wyndham is the author of Hospice: The Last Responder. She works as a hospice nurse in the greater Houston area.

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