Undying Love The Palliative Care Deception

CFP seriesMuch is being made of palliative care these days, especially in the doctor-assisted suicide debate.  Prominent palliative care specialists such as Ira Byock and former assisted-suicide advocate Diane Meier  strongly oppose such legislation in our new era of palliative care.

According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), headed by Dr. Meier, palliative care “is specialized medical care for people living with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness,” and “is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.”

Palliative care is not hospice, as anyone in the field would tell you.  Here is a graphic from CAPC demonstrating the “old” and “new” models of care:

My step-father, Dick, had congestive heart failure, stage IV renal cancer in his lungs, and required dialysis.  His appetitie and sleep were poor and he had bouts of breathing difficulties, much of which was due to untreated clinical anxiety. But he still cared for himself, drove himself to dialysis, and received chemotherapy.  My mother had difficulty coordinating the different instructions from the nephrologist, oncologist, and cardiologist, which sometimes conflicted, none of whom addressed his symptoms.  I told her to ask about palliative care for him, since he was the perfect patient for such services based.  She received a resounding, “No,” from all the doctors.

This reaction truly confused me until I learned that under Medicare palliative care services are paid through hospice benefits.  In other words, Dick needed to go on hospice in order to receive palliative care.  Signing on to hospice means giving up all other treatments, the so-called “life-prolonging care” in the models above.  Without dialysis, Dick would die in a matter of days, so hospice was out of the question.

That “old” model of palliative care is not so old.  That makes the push for palliative care in reality a push to surrender life-sustaining treatments.  Beware of former assisted-suicide advocates turned palliative-care-specialists and the false hope they present.

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John Adams and the Little Sisters of the Poor

As part of his conclusion of his legal defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, John Adams said, “The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men.”

We want justice to be blind; we do not want legal arguments to be an acceptable defense for some yet an invalid one for others.  We find courage in those willing to stand up for a principle even when it applies to those we may not like, or, like Thomas More, when it means great personal sacrifice.

Today, however, is an era of justice for the favored—to the point of absurdity—on display in the daily news. The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers are being made to comply with the HHS Mandate while companies like Visa and Exxon Mobile are given exemptions.  Apple CEO Tim Cook takes public stands against religious freedom laws that would protect cake designers, photographers, and florists from being forced to create art in violation of their beliefs and yet Apple argues that the government mandating it to create computer code to bypass iPhone security is “compelled speech” violating the First Amendment.

Sadder still is not cowardice in the face of risk, which is all too human, but rather when self-interest is held up as being courageous.   Notre Dame will present the Laetare Medal jointly to Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner. Notre Dame president  Father John Jenkins defends the controversial decision by saying, “It is a good time to remind ourselves what lives dedicated to genuine public service in politics look like.”  Never mind that the award was established to honor a Catholic who “illustrated the ideals of the Church,” ideals that Biden has long actively opposed.

And this from a university that gave into the HHS mandate.  As William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Principles are a fine thing—just don’t let them get in the way of a comfortable place in society.”

Years after the Boston Massacre trial, John Adams wrote, “The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.”

Who has been manly in what has procured anxiety? The Little Sisters of the Poor.

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