End-of-Life Dilemma

hospiceBy Lee Anna Sherman

When dying people choose to hasten death with a doctor’s help, their caregivers often face a troubling dilemma. In particular, hospice — the final stop for many terminal patients — poses an overlooked problem, OSU researchers report. That’s because hospice objects to physician-assisted death, yet most patients who choose assisted death are in hospice care.

“The conventional approach to the question of legalized physician-assisted death… has missed the issue of how the requirements of a new law are carried out by the primary care-giving institution, hospice care,” says philosopher Courtney Campbell, an expert in medical ethics. “Balancing core beliefs, such as compassion and non-abandonment of a patient, with the new law has been difficult at best for hospice professionals.”

Campbell and his colleagues are encouraging informed dialogue around topics such as hospice’s mission, legal options, emotional and religious factors, family responsibilities and many other issues.