Pain Management/Hospice Care
Pain. It is the most feared symptom associated with disease or illness. You may be terrified that you or one of your loved ones will experience excruciating pain at the end of life.
Proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia argue that we need to legalize these acts because patients, particularly those with terminal illness, experience uncontrollable pain. They argue that the only way to alleviate the pain is to eliminate the patient.
It is important not to trivialize this issue. No one wants to be in pain or see their loved ones in pain. Fortunately, we live at a time when medicine has made great strides to manage pain. A medical team which includes doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors to address the total well being and/or suffering of a patient is vital to the proper management of pain.
Pain is most often associated with cancer. Here are some important things for you to consider:
- Not all cancers are associated with pain.
- Cancer pain can be relieved.
- Patients who take narcotics to relieve pain will not become addicted.
- The side effects of pain medication can be alleviated.
- It is important to discuss your pain symptoms with your doctor.
- Dosage of pain medication is important to control your pain and should be worked out with your doctor.
- Almost all pain medications can be given by mouth. Technology allows some patients to have a pump with which they can control the flow of pain medication. Sometimes a patch is used.
- Hospice care, which addresses the total needs of a patient who is in the dying process, is an excellent alternative to killing the patient.
Please note: We are not experts in pain relief and are unable to give specific medical advice. There are several places where you can get good information about pain management.
The Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative has been working for many years to teach medical professionals how to relieve pain. Please click http://aspi.wisc.edu/wpi/ to visit their website.
The Alliance of State Pain Initiatives (ASPI) has an excellent booklet with information for patients on how to discuss pain symptoms with their doctor. The booklet can be found at www.aspi.wisc.edu/CPCBR.htm.
In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, the most important and common reasons people report for requesting suicide is not pain but loss of autonomy and fear of incapacity. We hope after reviewing this information that you will not use pain as a reason to support assisted suicide.
Hospice Care – A Loving Alternative
The process of dying is one of life’s most traumatic events – not only for the patient who is dying but also for loved ones who provide a needed support system at a critical time. Perhaps you have already experienced this process with a loved one.
As advances have been made in treatment of long-term illnesses, the dying process has become longer. Will the patient live for two weeks or two years? No one knows with certainty, but the patient must cope with the illness and accompanying discomforts and emotions for whatever period of time he or she has left until natural death occurs.
To respond to the need for a better system of care for the dying, the hospice movement was born in the late 1960s. The first hospices were places to which a dying patient was brought to live out his or her last days. More recently, hospices can be found in hospitals and nursing homes, and hospice care can even be brought directly to a patient’s home. There are over 2,500 hospices in the United States today.
The job of the hospice team is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, providing emotional, spiritual and physical support. In a hospice setting, there is no high tech equipment or treatments. The most important part of hospice care is to provide relief from pain.
A patient can be encouraged to write letters to family members, resolve old issues, plan a funeral, enjoy favorite foods or entertainment, care for a treasured pet, complete a will, be visited by family members, and remain as active as his or her condition will allow. These activities ease the patient through the dying process. For families, hospice caregivers help them care for and deal with the impending death of a loved one.
To learn more about:
- When hospice care is appropriate
- Financial assistance for hospice services
- Where the nearest hospice is located
- Becoming a hospice volunteer
Contact the national Hospice Helpline provided by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at 1-800-658-8898 or visit their website at www.nhpco.org.