The Value of Hospice End of Life Care.

I recently attended a policy summit for the Missouri Hospice End of Life Care Coalition.  The theme of the meeting was  “Finishing Life Well: We Can Do Better”.  While the sessions were excellent and thought provoking on the topic, there was one attendee that was just lit with passion on the subject.

Nurse Nancy* was a 70 year old hospice nurse with short, white hair and an almost frail looking body.  She was dancing and singing along to the classics when she came over to me and posed the following question:

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You know, there are two certainties in life.  You were born and you will die.  Medicine has done such wonderful things to make child birth easy and comfortable for both the mother and baby, why can’t we do that for death? ”


It took me a while to process what she had asked me.  That night in my room, I began thinking through all the stories of death I’ve either experienced or heard over the past years.  My grandfather, one of the smartest and most physically fit men I’ve ever known, being overcome by dementia and spending his last months lying in bed, barely able to sit up – and my grammy, still as young as ever, staying home day-in and day-out to be with him, trying to glean as much time as possible.  A 3 year old boy in my community suffering from brain cancer being so medicated due to the pain that he was unable to interact with his parents and sister as he was dying.

I had initially thought the summit theme and Nurse Nancy’s question were about making death and dying easier for the patient.  But now I wonder if we work harder at making death easier for the care givers and loved ones, could that in turn make it easier for the patient, much like a mother being properly prepped and comfortable can make the birthing process easier and less stressful on the baby?

*Names have been changed