Letter: Become aware of many end-of-life options

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Become informed on end-of-life options

To the editor:

Ellen Goodman's "Avoid fight about how we die" struck a nerve. (Eagle op-ed page, June 7).

I am a family nurse practitioner who makes house calls in Berkshire County. Many of my patients are not aware they have a voice in end-of-life decisions. It's a difficult conversation, but one health care providers need to address with patients and families. Many of my patients have never heard of MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment).

A MOLST is a form that gives the patient/family control over what medical interventions they choose, such as intravenous fluids, CPR, dialysis or a breathing tube. This form is available from a patient's personal health care provider and is discussed, at length, and signed by the patient or a health care proxy, and the physician, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant.

Many patients are not aware that hospice/palliative care is a choice and provides relief from physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Those of us who work with the dying know that patients desperately want their symptoms controlled and do not want to be killed. With appropriate hospice/palliative care, many patients live longer and with a quality of life such that, they can enjoy their loved ones until the disease takes their life.

In many years of working with dying patients, I have never had a patient die in pain. We are afforded many resources, along with medication, to allay suffering of the terminally ill and to ease the emotional and spiritual pain of family members who care for a dying patient. Hospice/palliative care is under-utilized. Far too many, who are not aware they have a choice, pursue aggressive technological care when hospice can provide quality pain control and assist the patient and family members in emotional and spiritual healing.

Interest in physician-assisted suicide is plain wrong and will detract from the precious services offered by hospice/palliative care.

Care of the terminally ill is far more than medication. Care is compassion, listening to the patient and family, addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs and increasing quality of life for all involved. When death is seen as a medical treatment, we have lost the art of nursing and medicine.

Barbara Shea Tracy, Lee The writer works as a family nurse practitioner at Porchlight Home Care and VNA and is a nursing professor at Berkshire Community College and Elms College.


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