By Chris Haring

Hospice and palliative care have become more accessible as people learn of the benefits they can offer as a compassionate, dignified end-of-life option.

Since its inception nearly a half-century ago, hospice care has provided a respite for those facing death, and more folks than ever are including it as an end-of-life option. Research shows that approximately 90% of people using medical aid in dying are also enrolled in hospice.

In a recent piece by Andy Young for New York’s Spectrum News 1, the impact of hospice on the terminally ill is described through the voices of caregivers, volunteers, and healthcare professionals.

Offering a compassionate shoulder under the most trying of circumstances

Patricia Meek, a volunteer hospice coordinator in Batavia, emphasizes the significance of hope in such trying times, which may seem ironic considering the circumstances. She speaks from personal experience, having walked alongside her late husband during his battle with heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease. 

Meek reflects, “What is it that hope means to you in this situation? Just that attention, that time, that ability for somebody to have conversation with other people, have the outside world come in again now that their world has become so narrow.”

Choosing hospice, like all end-of-life options, is about dignity and autonomy

Melissa Sullivan, CEO of Community Care of WNY Home Care and Hospice, sheds light on some misconceptions surrounding hospice care. Contrary to popular belief, she says, hospice is not a mere surrender to fate: it is a conscious choice made by individuals seeking to live their final days as they choose.

“Hospice is a form of end-of-life care in which the patient chooses his or her surroundings to be able to pass away with dignity and respect,” said Sullivan.

Dawn Moore, a senior hospice nurse coordinator, refers to her personal journey witnessing her father’s terminal illness. Her dedication to easing the suffering of others is paramount, she says: “Knowing that I’ve touched somebody’s life… That’s why I do it.”

At Death with Dignity, we have always believed that the full range of end-of-life options should be open to patients with terminal diseases. As the data shows, hospice and medical aid in dying can work together to provide dying patients with the choices they need to live their final days and weeks with dignity. And data further shows that hospice and palliative care have improved and increased in every state where medical aid in dying has been adopted.

Hospice is an imperative end-of-life option. Last year we wrote about the the Los Angeles Times’ letters editor Paul Thorton’s mother choosing hospice at the end of her life. Read more about the comfort and dignity it gave her here.