Hospice has been a big part of end of life care since 1970. It is an essential comfort giving service to the dying. It allows the terminally ill to receive the pain management and comfort they need in their final days. Many unfortunately never utilize this service and instead suffer more than they need to in the final days.
Hospice has always been about improving care and comfort for the dying. In the article, “Hospice: Improving Care at the End of Life”, the author, Mary Kane, answers some basic hospice questions and why it so critical to better care at end of life. She states,
“When hospice first started to take off, there was a lot of enthusiasm and a sense you were rescuing a person from the clutches of a medical care system gone mad. That has eroded. Hospice has become both a business, in the sense people are making a lot of money on it, and it’s become routine. Now just about half of Medicare recipients use hospice before they die.”
Hospice is growing and it is being seen more important everyday, but many still need to understand its importance in their own end of life care. To learn more about thanatology and the needs of the dying, please review our Pastoral Thanatology program
Extending medical aid that is affordable and even covered is essential to the dignity of any American. It entitles the American the care he or she needs in addressing comfort and peaceful transition in death. Voters this election clearly cared about medical and end of life issues in their support of healthcare friendly candidates.
The article, “The Growing Acceptance of Medical Aid in Dying” by Kim Callinan illustrates this necessity and call for better healthcare to the dying. The article states,
“While expanding and protecting health care was the number-one issue for voters on Nov. 6, what has gone unreported is that elected officials can now safely run on the issue of expanding and protecting end-of-life care options. For decades, lawmakers feared that sponsoring medical aid-in-dying bills that would allow terminally ill adults to have the option to peacefully end their suffering would harm their chances of getting re-elected. This year’s elections proved those concerns false.”
Everyone’s ultimate cross and fate lies in death. For some death will come peacefully, others violently, while others will fight it to the end or meekly accept it. Whichever the case, all deserve dignity in their final moments. The Christian faith accepts death with dignity as a way of transformation from the temporal state to the eschatological state. In this transformation, life does not cease, but continues and is enhanced in the beatific vision for the just. Ultimately, even the temporal form of man, his body, will again taste life in the general resurrection.
Christianity faces death with dignity. It does not hope to trick death, fear death, or prematurely sacrifice oneself to it without greater cause. Christianity views death as the final cross and suffering where one
can offer his or her pains to Christ in one last redemptive manner for one’s own sins and the sins of the world. The ironic ideal of death and suffering giving life and happiness is manifested when a Christian puts his faith and hope in Christ and accepts his or her cross. The ultimate paradigms of Christ and his saints show one how to accept these final moments; moments that differ from person to person in every way but ultimately lead to one destination which is God. Counselors of Pastoral Care need to emphasize this and help people understand it as death approaches with their end of life care .
While Christ and his saints offer great insight into the acceptance of death, I would like to go beyond the mere spiritual preparation that involves prayer, sacraments, and other pious rituals. I would rather look at how a Christian within the modern world of science accepts death. Does the Christian seek an easy death that involves euthanasia, or does he seek to extend his life through every scientific means to the point of losing self identity? These are difficult questions but the church has given some insight for not only primary caregivers, but also for those competent enough to make the decisions regarding life and death in correlation with Christian dignity.
The terms ordinary and extraordinary measures are the foundation for such decisions in determining whether to prolong or cease life. Ordinary medical measures refer to any proven methodologies within the medical community that are needed in order for life to be maintained. Such examples would be any basic medications or proven surgeries that can cure the ailment. As Christians, we are called to accept the crosses that come with these procedures and choose life at all costs. Extraordinary measures, however, are measures that sustain life that are beyond the basic measures. Extraordinary measures could include experimental drugs, unproven surgeries and high risk procedures with no sure or certain outcome. Also included within this idea are any methods that sustain life artificially. Christians are given the option to choose or deny extraordinary measures. If they so choose, an extraordinary measure can be applied but the right to accept the natural consequences of death with human dignity is fully accepted within the Christian tradition. Such decisions on extraordinary measures are usually made by the patient if still lucid, but later fall to the family in order of legal authority.
Christians are to accept death with faith and hope and are encouraged to utilize modern medications and procedures but when these procedures and medications become overbearing and unfruitful, a Christian may with confidence meekly accept the final cross of his or her life and with love meet God in the afterlife. If you are interested in Pastoral Thanatology Certification, please review the program.