As Congress debates the new health bill, whipping boys are paraded out to create fear. The latest, and most deplorable is that hospice will be used to save costs by forcing people to die rather than be supported by life-extending technology. For some congressman and special interest groups who oppose health care reform, ideology trumps truth. There is nothing in the bill that mandates hospice rather than necessary needed medical intervention. In fact, in the House of Representative draft bill, hospice funding will be cut by $2.3 billion over a 5-year period and $9.8 billion over a 10 year period.

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As a hospice bedside volunteer for the last seven years, I’ve served patients who came to us, confused and depressed after receiving a terminal diagnosis, sometimes matter-of-factly said by a physician glancing at his watch.  Surrounded by compassionate people rather than harried medical personal who look at a chart before remembering a patient’s name, they found the peace needed to begin the most mysterious and spiritual journey of their life.

Hospice is less expensive than hospital care. For a four day stay in the hospital, almost anything short of the cost of a Ferrari would be. Hospice has never been, nor will become a substitute for necessary medical care. Rather, it’s a choice made when the quality of one’s end-of-life is more important than its extension by a few weeks or months.

It has taken decades for hospice to be recognized for what it is: a state of mind offering compassion to the terminally ill in their homes, nursing facilities or dedicated hospice sites. To have compassionate service and years of public education denigrated because of political ideology is abhorrent.

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About The Author

I am an author of eight books in four languages. LESSONS FOR THE LIVING: STORIES OF FORGIVENESS, GRATITUDE AND COURAGE AT THE END OF LIFE is my memoir of being a bedside hospice volunteer for six years while battling prostate cancer. My next book, LEANING INTO SHARP POINTS: PRACTICAL GUIDANCE AND NURTURING SUPPORT FOR CAREGIVERS will be published in March, 2012 by New World Library and focus on caregiving for loved ones who have a progressive or terminal illness.