The John D. Thompson Hospice Institute for Education, Training and Research, Inc.
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Commentaries


The National Legislative Perspective

     In recent years, public discourse surrounding the issue of medical care for the terminally ill has been dominated by the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Unfortunately, missing from this national dialogue has been a discussion of the alternative of hospice care. I am grateful to have this opportunity to express my strong support for Connecticut's recently-launched Physician Assisted Living (PAL) Partners Initiative, which is designed to educate Connecticut's citizens about the choices available to them when faced with a terminal illness.

     Recent advances in medicine that have saved or extended countless lives have also increased the numbers of patients faced with prolonged illnesses. Hospice care offers individuals for whom a cure is no longer possible the opportunity to live the remainder of their lives in a supportive environment under the care of specially trained medical professionals. Unlike traditional hospital care, which is directed primarily toward curing or ameliorating illness, hospice services focus on managing pain and providing psychological, sociological, and spiritual support for patients and their families. However, despite the tremendous benefits that hospice services can provide to those who chose them, many patients, families, and even providers remain unaware of the existence of these services.

     The principles of hospice care are grounded in the belief that individuals should have the right to make their own decisions about the type of care they would wish to receive when confronted by a terminal illness. The PAL program will help support this decision-making by educating Connecticut residents about their options for end-of-life care. Through this program, state residents will be informed about the availability of hospice care and can receive a document, to be signed and delivered to their doctors, explaining their desire to receive hospice care in the event of terminal illness. This allows patients the opportunity to think about alternatives and commit to them in writing prior to such time as they become incapacitated.

     I am proud that the first hospice established in the nation was in Connecticut. PAL continues our proud tradition of compassionate care.

Christopher J. Dodd,
Senator

The Helping Hand from Hospice

    There clearly is a profound and important value that underlies the work that Hospice does. It is that this great gift of life that God has given us goes from the very beginning to the very end, and from the very beginning to the very end is sacred and deserves the kind of love and respect and compassionate care that is provided here at Hospice.

     In its way and in a marvelous affirmation, I think Hospice, as it helps people approach the end of life, really pays tribute to life in as meaningful a way as I know. All of us have been or will be touched by it. Each of us has our own special memories, and if I may take the liberty of being personal, when my father of blessed memory was in his last days, I can remember so clearly his effort to maintain his dignity, to continue to remain involved with the rest of us in the family. In conversation I remember also the wonderful home care we received at that time through Hospice, which helped my dad to do all of those things. It was care given in a most respectful way, it was care given in a way that preserved his dignity and, although he was weakened, preserved his strength. I shall never forget it, We in the family, thanks to Hospice, and also thanks to my dad, really felt that he was with us to the very last second of his life.

     As we improve our health-care system, it is critical to remember, hold dear, and enact the values that are reflected in this hospice program: the underlying belief in the sanctity of life from the beginning to the end, the importance of caring, and the quality of care; it is important to remember that we are people trying to help people.

Joseph I. Lieberman,
Senator

 


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