Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lifenews Discredits Palliative Care.

Lifenews published an irresponsible and misleading article yesterday by writer Mary Ann Kreitzer that uses friend-of-a-friend conjecture and emotion to discredit palliative care. Like Bill Frist diagnosed Terri Schiavo by video, Kreitzer uses a telephone conversation to determine that her friend's father was "killed" by palliative care.

Irresponsible: because millions of elders are now facing end of life care and planning and require fact-based, scientific, medically sound advice on what their options are for their dying and death. This article plays on fear of death, the taboo of discussing end of life choices, and religious convictions to damage patients' understanding. It is a horrible disservice to seniors.

Misleading: In short she gets all the facts wrong simply because she is not medically trained, is not intimate with the medical facts of the man's death, does not understand that dementia and alzheimers not only damage the mind but the body, has little knowledge of what palliative sedation is, and in short, contributes to fears that elders already have about end of life issues.

I wish we could say that this type of egregious misinformation and fear-mongering was rare, but unfortunately it's not. While 75% of elders say they would like to die at home, 80% die in health facilities, often without any control over their end of life decisions, financial arrangements, or knowledge of patients' rights. Over the past thirty years, the sort of work that Kreitzer is doing with this post has reduced elders to victims, not in control of their end of life decisions or care. Kreitzer demeans the autonomy of elders by reducing their agency in their own health care decisions.

But there's something else at work in this piece: grief is a complicated and nuanced emotional process that, when stymied by blame and anger, however unjust, can damage the grieving of those who have lost a loved one. Kreitzer's damage is not only to those seniors who must face the dying process without guidance and accurate information but to the loved ones who in the wake of death are faced with the work of their own grief.

By using only the barest outline of a man's death, Kreitzer makes the case that the nebulous "culture of death" is out to kill our vulnerable seniors. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only accurate information, medically sound decisions, advanced planning, and acceptance of impending death will empower our seniors to die the way they want to. Kreitzer deserves grave criticism for working to distort our human right to a good death.
From Lifenews:

I spoke to a friend this morning whose father was murdered by terminal sedation (aka "palliative" care). Her father suffered from Alzheimer's and his mind was pretty well gone, but physically he was in great shape.

He and his wife lived with one of my friend's children who took him for a long walk every day and knew how to manage all his grandfather's moods. They were good buddies. My friend lived nearby and spent as much time as possible visiting her parents and enjoying her father's company.

But the rest of the family (including my friend's mother who had power of attorney) decided to put him in a nursing home where he was difficult to control because he wanted to be released. My friend told me that every time she went to visit him he was trying to escape -- pulling at every door and even the bookcases looking for a way out. Three nursing homes and several months later he pretty much gave up.

When she went to see him he would be sitting in a wheelchair slumped over and drooling. He got an infection and ended up in a hospital "palliative" ward where he was denied food, water, and antibiotics. Within several months, he went from an elderly man who was walking two miles a day with his grandson, to dead from dehydration and terminal sedation. It was Terri Schiavo and Hugh Finn without the publicity.

My friend considered trying to get guardianship at one point, but she was familiar with the earlier cases and knew it would be a lengthy legal battle and the result would be the same. He had also deteriorated so much she didn't think he could recover. With a number of young children still at home, she didn't think she could deal with the fight. So here was a faithful daughter (and her husband) willing to care for both her parents until they died, who had to watch while her faithless siblings and her mom murdered her father.

Welcome to the realities of the culture of death.

Terminal sedation is abortion for the elderly. You have dementia and get pneumonia? Like Rahm Emmanuel says, Never let a crisis go to waste. See it as an opportunity for a quick exit. No antibiotics and terminal sedation. Abortion completed. Your loved one is healthy but brain damaged like Terri Schiavo and Hugh Finn? No problem. Starvation, dehydration, and terminal sedation. Call it late-term abortion.

You think I'm exaggerating? The New York Times ran an article on December 27, 2009 on the practice. It is common in hospice programs. Hurry the patients along for the peace of the family and to empty the bed. Saves everyone anxiety, money, and hassle. Except, perhaps, the patient. But he is drugged so whatever objections he may have had, you'll never have to hear them.

Sometimes, as in my friend's case, though, things aren't that smooth. Far from bringing peace to families it brings terminal strife and family breakdown. And in the case of my friend's mom, will children who killed their father, hesitate at doing the same thing to the their complicit mother? After all, she had no objections to killing dad; so how can she object to her own quick exit? It's for the children (and their inheritance?).

I wish I could say this is the only case I know of the deliberate murder of elderly parents, but it isn't. It's common practice in some hospices with or without the complicity of the families. Situations like my friend's are also becoming more and more common as the baby boomers, who often gave their children nothing in the way of faith, face the results of their hedonistic lives. "Hey, Mom put me in day care for most of my childhood and aborted my siblings; I'll put her in a nursing home and pull the plug as soon as possible." So much easier for everyone.

The worst part, however, is that while the body is being killed, the souls of the killers are dying as well. How does God who said, "Honor your father and your mother," look at the deliberate murder of parents? It is mortally sinful! And that's the greatest suffering for my friend. She would like to see her family in heaven, but fears that this life on earth may be the only common ground they ever share.

Please pray for all those in danger of death today from terminal sedation and for those who will carry it out and enable it. It's a soul-killer for sure! You can call it quick and painless, but in the end the palliative care ward, like the abortion mill, is literally hell on earth.

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Blogger Mary Ann said...

There are many professionals exposing the use of terminal sedation to kill patients. Doctors have admitted it in national newspapers. Ron Panzer of Hospice Patients Alliance ( has documented it. Terri Schiavo's nurse testified to the abuse going on in the hospice before they killed her. And who is in a better position to know what happened than the family members who were taking care of the person. There was no reason to put my friend's father in a nursing home when he was being cared for so well at home. It was a shameful act that led to his death.

February 16, 2010 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

Mary Ann - Yes, terminal sedation exists, mostly because it's the only way we have, besides assisted suicide, to alleviate severe end of life pain. The primary abuse of terminal sedation is that the patient and his family are often poorly informed of what is happening.

So who put your friend's father in a nursing home when he didn't want to be? Did he have a medical proxy? Did he have adequate home care? And why don't you address these things better in your article?

I feel like you used ideological conjecture to write an article that a whole bunch of elders will read (that is the lifenews demographic) and be scared by. WHO put him in a nursing home and how is that a situation that others should be wary of? If you're being a writer, you should be accountable to facts, not a string of coincidences and misunderstandings.

If you've got facts that show this was not an isolated case - and I don't mean bogus conspiracy Terri Schiavo reports - please share them. That's what an article is supposed to do.

I still think that lifenews will publish anything so long as it supports their "pro-life" agenda, however contrived and discriminatory. Women were for the longest time their primary target, particularly those who are on the lower income brackets. Lifenews was there to tell them what they should believe and do. Now I find that seniors are the next segment of the population lifenews wishes to discriminate against. It's shameful.

February 17, 2010 at 5:09 AM  

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