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What hospice is & isn't

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Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

In Brad Bumsted's news story “Pa. nurse's assisted suicide case hits at heart of national debate” (Oct. 14 and, there is misleading information from Sean Crowley, spokesman for the group Compassion & Choices.

He said prosecution of Barbara Mancini “will have a chilling effect on millions of other families who fear that providing home hospice care for their dying relatives could put them in prison.” This terribly inaccurate statement could have the real chilling effect of eliminating hospice care for deserving patients.

Authentic hospice is neither illegal nor linked to assisted suicide. What he said is simply wrong.

Hospice is a philosophy of care that treats patients for optimal comfort. It is a Medicare benefit for any eligible patient once that patient (and the family) decide to forgo disease-directed therapy (e.g., stopping chemotherapy when cancer becomes incurable).

It is an interdisciplinary and holistic approach, the goal of which is to manage patients' symptoms (pain, weakness, depression, shortness of breath, etc.) to reduce their suffering as much as possible. Hospice is used for caring, not for killing those we love.

Compassion & Choices once called itself the Hemlock Society. The group was at least honest at one time about its mission of killing.

Ralph A. Capone


The writer is a physician who is board-certified in hospice and palliative care.

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