Friday, May 29, 2009

The Cancer of Good Intentions

Brother, do I KNOW about that kind of cancer! Both my parents died from it.

posted by Eric Steinman May 27, 2009 3:00 pm

filed under: Family Life, Children, Parenting at the Crossroads, cancer, chemotherapy, daniel hauser, personal freedom, religious freedom

One indelible memory I have from the last days of my father’s life was rifling through his filing cabinet at 3 AM. This was not a scheming attempt to uncover some dark family secret, and shamelessly confront him with it on his deathbed. No, I was dispatched to run a reconnaissance mission back to my father’s home office looking for a “do not resuscitate” order (DNR), which essentially functions as an advanced directive in writing from a patient who does not wish to have “unnecessary” life sustaining treatment, and instead wishes to have a more natural death. I was moved to rush, as the attending physician at the hospital said he was about to put my father on life support unless he received legal notice not to do so. Knowing my father, and the specifics of his wishes, I knew the last thing he would want was to be brain dead, indefinitely hospitalized, and hooked up to a machine that went “beep-beep-beep.”

Long story short: I found the DNR with a few minutes to spare and my father ultimately got his parting wish.

I was reminded of this significant moment in my life recently by the trials and tribulations of Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old Minnesota boy suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who just last week lost a court battle he and his family waged to refuse any further invasive treatments (chemo, radiation, etc) and instead (with the consent of his parents) explore a more holistic approach to wellness and health. Hauser’s doctors claim that Daniel has a 90 percent chance of survival with treatment and a 95 percent chance of not seeing the end of the year if he doesn’t receive treatment. Fairly grim statistics. However, Daniel and his parents are ardent believers in a more natural path of treatment (the practices of the native American Nemenhah religious organization) and have a tremendous amount of faith in following this discipline toward a cure. Daniels mother says, “we believe in traditional methods. To strip that away would be stripping his soul right out of his body.”

Since the court ruling in favor of continuing chemotherapy against the will of the family as well as young Daniel, he and his mother have gone missing (most likely fleeing the mandate of the court) and have ignited a firestorm about parents rights, religious freedom, child endangerment, and personal freedoms.

It is difficult to know how this particular case will be resolved, but judging from the emotional uproar around the Terri Schiavo case from a few years back, we are likely to hear a lot of moral grandstanding and admonishments before anyone is truly cared for.

This particular case with Daniel Hauser appears to be suitably complicated, with doubts and dispersions being cast upon the parents and the ailing child being made into a symbolic martyr for the cause (what cause it may be is still unclear). Regardless, the whole tumult brings up difficult and troubling questions about not only life and euthanasia, but also how family members and loved ones choose to administer (or not) the needed care.

So how does this all sit with you? Are the parents just kooks and unfit to take care of their ailing child? Is the court way out of line and infringing on both individual and religious freedoms along with civil rights? Should the protection of life be the be all and end all?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wash. state has first death under new suicide law

Posted: May 22, 2009 12:43 PM EDT

Assisted suicide law takes effect, opinions clash
Washington voters pass initiative allowing medically assisted suicide

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A 66-year-old woman from Sequim is the first person to die under the state's new assisted suicide law.

Linda Fleming died Thursday night after taking drugs prescribed under the "Death with Dignity" law that took effect in March.

Compassion & Choices of Washington announced the death Friday morning.

The organization says Fleming was diagnosed last month with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

The new law was approved in last November's election with a nearly 60 percent vote. It is based on Oregon's measure which passed in 1997. Since then, about 401 people have used the Oregon law to end their lives.

Under Washington' law, any patient requesting fatal medication must be at least 18 and mentally competent. Two doctors must certify that the patient has less than six months to live.

The state Department of Health says it has received six forms from pharmacists saying they have dispensed life-ending drugs.

The passage of the Washington State Initiative 1000, the "Death with Dignity Act," has required hospitals and healthcare providers to make decisions about whether they will participate under the Act. The Act is clear that no provider, including Deaconess, is required to assist a qualified patient in ending his or her own life and requires hospitals that do not allow participation to provide public notice.

"After thoughtful conversations with our medical staff, board of trustees and patients, Deaconess Medical Center has chosen to not participate in the ‘Washington State Death with Dignity Act,'" said Shelley Peterson, Deaconess' Chief Nursing Officer. "However, we do believe that the passage of this act by Washington voters is a call to improve end of life care. We also believe that whether or not to participate in Death with Dignity is a decision for providers and their patients. Therefore, we will not interfere with decisions made in private clinics on the Deaconess campus."

Deaconess says it will continue to provide compassionate, high quality care to all patients. Any patient wishing to receive life-ending medication while a patient at the hospital will be assisted in transfer to another facility of the patient's choice, assuring continuity of care.

"All providers at Deaconess will continue to respond to a patient's questions about life-ending medication with compassion and without judgment. Deaconess believes our providers have an obligation to openly discuss the patient's concerns, unmet needs, and feelings about dying and end-of-life care. Providers will continue to seek to learn the meaning behind the patient's questions and help the patient understand the range of available options, including but not limited to comfort care, hospice care and pain management. Ultimately, Deaconess' goal is to help patients make informed decisions about end-of-life care," said Peterson.

Valley Hospital and Medical center also chose not to participate in the act.

Previous Coverage
Two prescriptions filled for WA assisted suicide

APRIL 22, 2009

SEATTLE, Wash. - State health officials say two prescriptions have been filled for life-ending drugs under Washington's new assisted suicide law.

Health Department spokesman Tim Church said Thursday he could not provide any details about the people considering suicide. The department has received two forms from pharmacists saying they have dispensed the drugs that people say they want to use to end their lives.

The department has not received any forms certifying that a person has committed suicide under the state law that took effect in early March.

Church says the people who filled a prescription for life-ending medication have as long as they want to take the medication or can change their minds and never take it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Committed by One Nurse Aid at Two Facilities

May 6th, 2009

A New York nursing home worker, who was already facing criminal charges for sexually abusing residents last summer, now faces new charges related to alleged abuses that occurred at another nursing home where he worked months earlier.

The New York Attorney General’s office has filed new charges against Robert Gundersen for misdemeanor forcible touching, felony sex abuse and misdemeanor third-degree sex abuse involving a 78 year-old nursing home resident. The sexual abuse allegedly occurred between December 15, 2007 and January 7, 2008, while he was working as a nurse aide at the Northwoods Rehabilitation Center in Troy.

At the time the charges were filed, Gundersen was already facing nursing home sex abuse charges as a result of forcibly French-kissing a younger wheel-chair bound resident with multiple sclerosis. That abuse allegedly occurred between August 2008 and September 2008, while he was working at the Eddy Ford Nursing Home in Cohoes, New York.

Discovery of the nursing home sexual abuse stems from increased investigations by the New York Attorney General’s Office, including the use of hidden cameras at facilities throughout the States.

Since the crackdown on abuse at nursing homes has become a top priority for the AG, more than 70 nursing home employees have been arrested or convicted for rape, sexual assault, theft and forgery. At least one nursing home company, Highgate LTC Management, has also been temporarily suspended from doing business as a result of nursing home neglect caught on camera.

Nursing home residents are susceptible to sexual abuses and unwanted physical contact, due to their weak and disabled conditions. Younger nursing home residents who are unable to speak or move independently could be especially at risk.

To ensure the safety of their residents, nursing homes have an obligation to conduct thorough background checks on their employees and to ensure that employees are properly trained and supervised. When a facility negligently fails to protect residents, they can often be held accountable through a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

Discovering abuse in nursing homes can often be challenging given the physical and mental impairments of many residents. In addition, information is often withheld from family members, facility supervisors and law enforcement because the residents are afraid of punishment or ashamed about what has occurred.

Patient advocates urge family members to always be alert for signs of nursing home abuse, which could include unusual cuts and bruises, broken bones, unexplained hair loss or changes in behavior when certain staff members are around.

Tags: New York, Nursing Home, Nursing Home Abuse, Nursing Home Neglect

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Nursing Home Penalizes Relatives for no advance notice of death

WHITE HOUSE, Tenn., May 8 (UPI) -- Members of a Tennessee family said they were penalized by a nursing home for not giving at least 30 days notice before their mother died.

Randy Harrell said he received a security check refund from the Windlands Center nursing home in White House after his mother, Lucille Harrell, 81, died at the facility March 20, WSMV-TV, Nashville, reported.

"At that time, the check was $301 instead of $1,295, which was her original deposit," Harrell said.

He said nursing home bosses told him the money was deducted for not giving 30 days notice of his mother's departure from the home, despite the reason being death.

Windlands Center manager John McCrory said the contract states that notice of leaving must be given at least 30 days in advance, although the document does not mention the word "death."

"If they see they are having lots of problems, I even recommend them giving 30-day notice at that time," McCrory said. "That way, it'll cut off some of the costs."