Response to CBS’s 60 Minute report “Ending Life”

By Paul Ledford, President & CEO, FHPCA

In 2010, Florida Hospice & Palliative Care Association adopted a position in opposition to physician-assisted suicide. It is our commitment to the value of life and to the optimization of the quality of life for all people at the end of life, that keeps us from supporting such legislation in Florida. An appropriate plan of care, commitment of hospice staff and family, and proper documentation of the patient’s care wishes should allow for a dying loved one to receive the end-of-life care needed that allows for dignity, quality, and respect.

We support the advancement of practical tools like the Physician Orders of Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and believe this type of physician documentation of a patient’s care wishes is a vital step towards ensuring that a patHandsient’s wishes are honored, and unfortunate situations, such as Barbara Mancini experience with her father, do not occur. Receiving quality end of life care is not just a matter of having the right documents in place, but also about receiving quality care early enough to make a difference. Hospice care can begin when a loved one has a life expectancy of 6 months or less, if the disease runs its normal course. The sooner a patient is enrolled in hospice care after diagnosis, the sooner a terminally ill patient can begin receiving quality palliative, psychosocial, spiritual, and emotional care. This care involves intensive case management, nurse, social worker, chaplain, and CNA visits, assistance from volunteers, and may include a variety of ancillary services that improve quality of life, such a music and other therapies. It is not uncommon for patients to quickly show improvement from the ravages of a disease given the quality of care they are receiving. Research shows that many patients actually live longer and have a better quality of life under hospice care than they would have pursuing aggressive acute care.

We believe that life, no matter in what state, is valuable and hospices in Florida strive everyday to ensure that end of life patients are free from pain and can live their remaining days with dignity surrounded by those they love. Every day is a gift.

Watch 60 Minute’s “Ending Life