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The Difference Between Palliative Care, Hospice, and Physician-Assisted Suicide

Updated: Apr 29


Palliative care, hospice, and physician-assisted suicide each offer an approach to end-of-life care, with their own set of considerations and implications. Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life, hospice provides comprehensive care during the final stages of life, and physician-assisted suicide is a controversial option that is illegal in most states including New. York.


Palliative Care: Focusing on Quality of Life


Palliative care is a specialized approach that aims to alleviate the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering of individuals with serious or life-threatening illnesses. Unlike curative treatment, palliative care focuses on improving the patient's quality of life by managing symptoms, providing pain relief, and offering emotional and social support.


Palliative care can be provided at any stage of an illness, from the time of diagnosis through the end of life. It is often integrated alongside curative treatments, ensuring that the patient's overall well-being is prioritized. Palliative care teams typically include physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals who work collaboratively to address the multifaceted needs of the patient and their family.


Hospice: Comprehensive End-of-Life Care


Hospice care is a specific form of palliative care that is provided to individuals who are terminally ill and have a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice focuses on providing comfort, pain management, and emotional support to the patient and their family during the final stages of life.


Unlike palliative care, which can be provided alongside curative treatments, hospice care is typically reserved for those who have chosen to forego further curative treatments and focus on quality of life. Hospice services are often provided in the patient's home, a hospice facility, or a long-term care facility, and are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance plans.


Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Controversial Approach That is Illegal in Most States


Physician-assisted suicide, also known as aid-in-dying, or euthanasia, is a highly controversial and complex issue. It involves a terminally ill patient requesting a prescription for life-ending medication, which they then self-administer or lethal drugs administered by a physician or medical team to end life. This practice is currently legal in 10 states including the states of Colorado, New Mexico and California, as well as in some European countries and illegal in the other 50 states including New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.


The debate surrounding physician-assisted suicide involves various ethical, legal, and medical considerations. Opponents raise concerns about the potential for abuse and the sanctity of human life. An authentic palliative care and hospice care allows the client to experience a natural death. Palliative care and hospice care programs who offer lethal medications to promote individual termination, may be breaking the law.


Understanding the Differences


As individuals and their loved ones navigate these complex and often emotionally charged decisions, it's essential to seek the guidance of healthcare professionals and legal associates who understand the available options, and help families and individuals make informed choices that align with their personal values and preferences.


Louisa Mastromarino is a Licensed Spiritual Health coach and certified counselor educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications, a Master of Science Degree in School Counseling, and a post master’s degree in Supervision and Educational Leadership.  Louisa is the author of Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Washington, D.C., Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to New York City, Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brizzley Bear Loves Poetry and additional publications.  






References:


American Medical Association. (2022). Physician-assisted suicide. Retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/physician-assisted-suicide



Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022). Hospice care. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-care


National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. (2022). What is hospice care? Retrieved from https://www.nhpco.org/hospice-care-overview/


World Health Organization. (2020). Palliative care. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/palliative-care




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