Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Do We Not Know?

How did four highly educated adults not know that the purpose of hospice care was to kill our mother slowly and painlessly? Two weeks after enlisting the assistance of hospice, our mother whose only complaint was that it hurt to be turned, but not enough for pain meds was given a high dose of morphine by a hospice nurse of death. This was just minutes after a doctor had examined her and determined that her vitals were good, she was awake and not in pain. Now she cannot swallow or be fully aroused. Hours before the overdose I called to share how my first day of school went, because I am a teacher. She carried her end of the conversation asking appropriate questions and laughing at appropriate times. Now I cannot even have a conversation with her. The nurses have diagnosed my mother based on what? When she left the hospital she had just had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The doctors said that the cancer might have spread to her lungs or she might have pneumonia. The nurse determined two days later that she not only had lung cancer but that it had spread to her brain. WHAT!? Again I have to wonder what she is basing this on. And forget privacy. When I was leaving for a few days to return to my home 2,000 miles away, not sure that my mother would still be with us when I returned a few days later, the nurse found my wanting to spend my last few minutes at my mother's bedside inappropriate. In addition whenever we go into my mother's room everything we say to her is written down to be shared with others later. The nurse told my sister that I needed to come to terms with the fact that people die. "We are all dying," is her pat answer. I am an ordained minister and I accept that death is a fact of life. I know that I will die someday, but for now I am living, not dying. What kind of healthy person lives by the mantra that she is dying? So, you may be asking, "What's the point here?" Do your research. DO NOT USE HOSPICE unless you are looking for a way to speed up the death process albeit painlessly. If you feel that the best thing for your family member is to be heavily sedated so much so that they cannot eat and breathing slows to the point that their brain becomes deprived of oxygen then hospice is for you. If you happen to live in San Antonio, Texas and you use Vitas and better yet the nurse assigned to you is Phyllis, then you better start planning the funeral. Do your research. My family's experience is not unique. Now that it is too late, I have discovered thousands of others who have had similar experiences.