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Are Euthanasia Advocates Taking Over America's Hospice Industry? ^ | December 19, 2003 | Kathy Dial

Posted on 12/21/2003 9:48:46 AM PST by nickcarraway

Washington, DC ( -- Imagine for a moment that a close relative—your father, a sister, a grandparent—is suffering from a terminal illness. It's past the point where your loved one can care for himself—and beyond your capabilities to help him. Time is running out, but you want to make his last days as comfortable as possible before death comes to claim him.

If you're like 10 percent of Americans, you find a hospice to take him in. Since hospice care is covered by Medicare, you know the financial burdens of his final weeks will be eased—and you can rest comfortably in knowing that the hospice staff will do all it can to ease your loved one's pain while allowing nature to take its course.

It's a peaceful thing to think about. Or is it?

Ron Panzer, president of the pro-life Hospice Patients Alliance (HPA), says there's a hidden threat inside the hospice industry that's been growing like a cancer for decades—and most people don't realize it until it's too late:

Hospice workers all over the country are routinely killing patients.

"Families who report in to HPA tell us they've overheard nurses say things like, ‘I'm just like Jack Kevorkian, only I do it with morphine,' " Panzer, whose organization receives thousands of calls like that a year, told "And they get away with it week after week after week, because ‘it's hospice!' "

Panzer has heard it all through the years: Family members describing their relative as terminally ill, but functional and not in unmanageable pain—until a visit from a hospice nurse left the patient dead within an hour. Family members who have been told by hospice workers how to administer pain medication—only to realize afterward that it was a lethal dose. And honest hospice workers who have been threatened or fired after finding out about cases of euthanasia and Medicare fraud. It's all taking place, he says, in a competitive industry that's favored by the federal government and making millions with little accountability.

"No government agency listens to these families," he said. "Absolutely no agency responds appropriately. From the local and state to the federal levels, these families are ignored—tens of thousands of them every year. Local district attorneys will refuse to prosecute reports of hospice killings because they're so-called ‘expected deaths.'"

As the seed is planted …

Not every hospice in America is out kill patients before their time in order to make a buck, Panzer said. The industry, which began in England in the late 1960s before the first American hospice was founded in 1974, has done much to deserve its golden reputation as the best end-of-life care option available.

In the beginning, Panzer said, "they were mostly nonprofit hospices, and before that, they were volunteer hospices set up by doctors, social workers and nurses. They might take donations, but they weren't getting paid in the early 1960s. "It wasn't a business—it was a labor of love."

But by the time Florence Wald, MSN, established Connecticut Hospice in 1974, a dark seed was already taking root in the fledgling industry.

"I'll tell you the way I see it, and I know that I differ from [British hospice founder Dame] Cicely Saunders, who is very much against assisted suicide," Wald told the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1999. "I disagree with her view on the basis that there are cases in which either the pain or the debilitation the patient is experiencing is more than can be borne, whether it be economically, physically, emotionally or socially. For this reason, I feel a range of options should be available to the patient, and this should include assisted suicide."

That mindset attracted the attention of euthanasia advocates. Since 1938, the right-to-die movement has existed in the United States—first calling itself the Euthanasia Society of America, most recently changing its name to Choice in Dying.

"They did it as a public-relations move to make their agenda more palatable to the gullible public," Panzer said, "representing a hastened death as a ‘choice,' just as abortion has been represented as a ‘choice' and a ‘right.' "

Choice in Dying has led the charge to promote advance directives and living wills—viewing them, Panzer said, as a stepping stone to assisted suicide and then euthanasia in a country that needed time to get acclimated to that kind of thinking. And the United States needed a lot of time: The concept of euthanasia has its roots in the eugenics movement that spawned the Nazi death camps of Hitler's Germany. That wasn't palatable to Americans who fought in World War II.

… so grows the tree.

But Panzer believes that the idea, which lay nearly dormant for half a century, found the crack it needed to break through to the surface in the 1980s.

"Medicare was looking at how to cut costs when providing very complex and intensive care to patients who were terminal. Statistics show the greatest expenditures for a patient are in the last months of life," he explained. "The hospice benefit was started in the early 1980s and was found to successfully reduce the costs of Medicare. So it was officially approved by Congress as a Medicare benefit."

Dr. Linda Peeno spent years in the managed-care industry, witnessing firsthand the kind of mindset it introduced to patient care. She left the field to become a patient advocate 10 years ago, unable to deal with the cost-containment attitude that shortchanged patients out of good—sometimes life-saving—care.

"This troubled me even when I was directing a nonprofit HMO," she told "We entered an agreement with a hospice, and immediately I saw our nurses trying to shift patients to hospice as quickly as possible. Once you get a family member to acknowledge that the condition is terminal and hospice is a resource, there was this belief they'd stop seeking other resources [and treatments]. So our costs were limited dramatically."

In the meantime, the euthanasia movement was finding inroads into the hospice industry: In the late 1990s, Choice in Dying was absorbed by a new organization called Partnership for Caring—founded by Dr. Ira Byock, a hospice physician.

Why did they merge?" Panzer asked. "Any organization that was pro-life would never in any way be associated with Choice in Dying, which is a front for the euthanasia movement."

When the cost-containment practices of managed care spilled over into all forms of health care—turning physicians more into gatekeepers than caregivers, Panzer said—the euthanasia movement saw a ripe opportunity: Right-to-die advocates began to infiltrate the top levels of the policy-making organizations in the hospice industry.

In other words," Panzer said, "hospice as we knew it is not hospice as it is today."

Medical literature has documented those inroads: JAMA reported in 1999 that physician-assisted suicide and the hastening of death is not "unheard of" or "rare" in medicine. A survey of 355 oncologists revealed that 15.8 percent reported having participated in euthanasia or assisted suicide—and of those, six patients did not "participate in the decision for euthanasia or assisted suicide." That means they were killed because the doctors wanted them dead, not because they chose it.

The industry's top policy-making bodies are the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Last Acts Partnership, and the Hospice Foundation of America. Though none of those organizations maintains publicly accessible position papers on assisted suicide on their respective Web sites, Partnership for Caring does: It says it "takes no position."

"The Partnership for Caring Board of Directors has taken legalization of physician-assisted suicide off the table as an issue for policy development and political action," says the document, titled "Leaving Our Differences at the Door," found on a page last updated in April 2002. "Partnership for Caring will not join the debate about physician-assisted suicide, and will take no position for or against its legalization because to do so would divert energy from Partnership for Caring's mission to eliminate the suffering of dying Americans."

That's just the sort of nebulous language Panzer has come to expect from the industry.

"They are not up-front about the euthanasia agenda, but you will not find one word mentioning the sanctity of life or the pro-life movement [on their sites]," he told "On their Web sites, they post articles from doctors who are right-to-die people."

For example, Panzer points to Byock co-writing an article with Dr. Timothy Quill—who promotes terminal sedation for patients, even if they are not suffering from the uncontrollable agitation that's often found in the final stages of life.

"If you expand the utilization of terminal sedation to other patients, it becomes the preferred method of euthanasia and is currently being implemented in hospices across the U.S. in that way—even though it's illegal," he said.

The road to abuse

That's a system that's ripe for abuse by family members with ulterior motives. It's what many believe has happened in the case of Terri Schiavo—the disabled Florida woman whose husband has kept her in a hospice for years while seeking the court's permission to remove the feeding tube on which she depends so she can starve to death. Michael Schiavo lives with and has fathered two children with another woman and stands to inherit Terri's estate if she dies—the reason her parents believe he's never divorced her.

"The Terri Schiavo case cannot be understood without … the background of hospice and the right-to-die movement," Panzer said. "She was placed [in hospice care] as a test case for the right-to-die movement to establish a legal precedent to end the lives of the disabled using hearsay evidence [about her end-of-life wishes], which is very common in hospice settings and in cases where one family member wishes to end the life of the patient.

"The Schiavo case represents the railroading of the disabled into death, using hospice as the vehicle to implement their dark agenda. Hospice is the preferred killing field, because no prosecutor will go after a hospice killing. It's a sacred cow."

Because of the savings hospice care can net the federal government through Medicare, Panzer believes the government doesn't want to hear any bad news about the industry—even news of murder. It would tarnish the image, turn people away who would otherwise use the industry for their relatives—maybe even make some stock prices tumble. It's also easy to falsify patient records—to make it look as though every effort was made to manage their pain for as long as they needed to die naturally, as the government requires hospices to do under the per-diem payment basis (for every day a patient is enrolled, not for each service rendered)—even if those efforts weren't made.

"I can see how that would be the line of thinking," Peeno said. "It's much like what happens in psychiatry sometimes with patients who are negligently treated—[the legal system] says they were mentally ill to begin with. So you shut down any attempt to understand how the system hastened the process.

"We're all going to die—but there's a legitimacy to the process. It shouldn't be accelerated for an economic goal."

That's a story that's caught journalists' attention before, but has never really made it past them to the public. Panzer and some of the families that have lost members to abusive hospice systems have all been interviewed over the last few years by some of the top news magazines in the nation—include PrimeTime Live and 20/20. But after the producers and reporters have done all the legwork, they return to New York—where, so far, their editors have always killed the story.

So the industry remains unchecked—even by the mainstream media.

"If all the dead bodies from this hospice homicides were piled in one place, it would resemble a Nazi death camp—because the Holocaust is already here in America," Panzer said. "You don't see it because they've figured out if they kill one at a time, they can get away with it."

"And they are."

Related web sites:

Hospice Patients Alliance -

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: catholiclist; doctors; ethics; euthanasia; hospice; medicine; prolife; righttodie; righttolife
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1 posted on 12/21/2003 9:48:46 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; Jhoffa_; FITZ; arete; FreedomPoster; Red Jones; ...
"We're all going to die—but there's a legitimacy to the process. It shouldn't be accelerated for an economic goal."

Free market bump.

2 posted on 12/21/2003 9:52:32 AM PST by A. Pole (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain , the hand of free market must be invisible)
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To: nickcarraway
I don't understand, and the article doesn't explain, what the financial incentive is for a hospice operator to kill off patients. Don't they get paid on a per diem basis, and therefore have every incentive to keep beds full. To do that wouldn't you want to minimize bed turnover?
3 posted on 12/21/2003 9:59:20 AM PST by John Beresford Tipton
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To: John Beresford Tipton; *Catholic_list
Don't they get paid on a per diem basis, and therefore have every incentive to keep beds full. To do that wouldn't you want to minimize bed turnover?

Your analysis makes perfect sense if the motive is profit. But if the motive is to liquidate useless eaters (vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens), high-turnover rate is a mark of efficiency.

The title says "taking over" and that's accurate enough, but somehow "infiltrating and subverting" says it better for me.

4 posted on 12/21/2003 10:08:20 AM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: John Beresford Tipton
Well, I'm not up on the economics either, but taking your "per paid diem" for a turn, I'd venture that *cost* per diem is a factor, and as long as a cow is milkable you milk it, but once it degrades costs more to feed and keep then that per diem paid, you slaughter it.

It's a disgusting way to think about it, but you have to think like your enemy would think to beat him in some situations.

5 posted on 12/21/2003 10:09:33 AM PST by bvw
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To: Petronski
Well, I can see that if it is low level nurses with a personal agenda, like the guy in NJ, killing off the patients. But if it were the owners, they would be costing themselves money, and risking prison to do so. That part of the article I don't believe. I'm a "follow the money type" and I would possibly believe it if the author showed how it benefitted the bottom line.
6 posted on 12/21/2003 10:12:21 AM PST by John Beresford Tipton
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To: Dan from Michigan
7 posted on 12/21/2003 10:15:49 AM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: John Beresford Tipton
I was on a panel not long ago with a woman who is very involved in hospice work here. Since the evening was sponsored by the Catholic Church, I had expected her to uphold our teachings against euthanasia. But in fact, she did not seem to be familiar with those teachings at all. In response to questions, she said things like, "I have no idea what the Church teaches, but I know what I think." And what she thought generally had the word "compassion" repeated in it several times. I really think there may be an ideological bias in favor of killing-as-compassion among others who choose this line of work, just as there obviously is among those who choose to work in the "reproductive health" area.
8 posted on 12/21/2003 10:21:57 AM PST by madprof98
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To: nickcarraway
Are Euthanasia Advocates Taking Over America's Hospice Industry?

I hope so.....time to take the lunatic god-shouters out of other peoples decisions.

9 posted on 12/21/2003 10:28:08 AM PST by Gringo1 (Might makes......well, it makes might.)
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To: nickcarraway
Just as Hitler and the Nazi party called it Quality of Life Choices.

Hospice should watch some of those old Nazi propaganda movie and then explain why they are different. They aren't.
10 posted on 12/21/2003 10:31:53 AM PST by mabelkitty
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To: madprof98
" I really think there may be an ideological bias"

there very well might be, but it seems to me that such a bias would be met, and overcome by the "Prime Directive" to enhance the bottom line.

If there's some other financial angle to this that makes acting out on that bias profitable I surely couldn't find it in the article.
11 posted on 12/21/2003 10:31:56 AM PST by John Beresford Tipton
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To: John Beresford Tipton
Bingo. This makes no sense. If you follow the money, the financial gain from stopping hospice care would go directly to hospitals. All I have to say is THANK GOD for hospice care. I've had two experiences with hospice. The first was when my brother died and he was able to die with dignity in a beautiful room with all the people he loved around him. 2) In-home hospice when my Father died. He was able to die at home, with the people he loved, not hooked up to machines or anything like that. If hospice sped up his death, I don't care. And I think they did. SO WHAT? They gave him drugs that dehydrated his body and lots of morphine. I'm grateful that he was finally out of the pain he was in. That's all he wanted in the end and I was glad there was someone who was willing to oblige.
12 posted on 12/21/2003 10:33:37 AM PST by Hildy
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To: Gringo1
time to take the lunatic god-shouters out of other peoples decisions

I've never heard the term "god-shouter". I suspect that means anybody who believes in the worth and sanctity of life?

13 posted on 12/21/2003 10:38:33 AM PST by Gritty ("A wicked man listens to evil lips, a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue"-Proverbs:17:4)
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To: nickcarraway
The writer paints all advocates of assisted suicide with the same brush, and tries to demonize the opposition. That's the kind of arguing position done by liberals and other idealogues that don't have the facts on their side.

Look, I feel very strongly that I do not wish to impoverish my family, just to live a few extra weeks in pain. I do not even wish to impose large costs on society via Medicare. It is wasteful, undignified, and I think morally wrong to briefly extend one's on life at a large cost to others.

So I would like the choice to be able to end my life at that point. But in most places, there's no way to do that legally. Thus, as with everything that is made illegal even though people want to choose that option, it is done surreptitiously. If it were out in the open as a choice, we could separate the legitimate cases from those where relatives are simply trying to get rid of a burden. But as long as the whole thing is hidden, it's not possible to do that.
14 posted on 12/21/2003 10:48:50 AM PST by Joe Bonforte
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To: Gritty
"I've never heard the term "god-shouter". I suspect that means anybody who believes in the worth and sanctity of life?"

No, it means the sanctimonious retards that stand around shouting about how only THEY know what god wants for someone else.

Hope that cleared things up for you.
15 posted on 12/21/2003 10:51:04 AM PST by Gringo1 (Might makes......well, it makes might.)
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To: John Beresford Tipton
What about charge high up front for medical service expected...then kill off patient so that monies not actually spent on patient?
16 posted on 12/21/2003 11:17:31 AM PST by RussianConservative (Xristos: the Light of the World)
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To: Gringo1
Buy buy Troll bate.
17 posted on 12/21/2003 11:19:39 AM PST by RussianConservative (Xristos: the Light of the World)
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To: John Beresford Tipton
the unseen factors that push towards euthanasia could be more subtle.
possibly the medicare feds review overall expenses at different hospices and find that some cost more per patient than others. the feds might prefer the hospices that cost less per patient, which would include those that kill off the patients. (i'm just speculating here.)
more likely: i think that the people who work in hospices look at life and death differently than other people. they don't see death as a bad thing, but as the end of suffering. a lot of the hospice work seems to be aimed at helping the patient and family accept death. once the patient gets to a certain point in the dying process, the hospice worker gives him a morphine shot that is sufficient to ease his pain. the shop also kills him.
i'm not necessarily against this, except in cases like the schiavo one where the patient isn't terminal and there is a profit motive.
in terminal cases, the morality is more ambiguous. if a terminal patient is in severe pain, and the only level of morphine that will stop the pain will also kill him, i would prefer to get the injection if it were me.
18 posted on 12/21/2003 11:32:05 AM PST by drhogan
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To: nickcarraway
As a home health nurse that works side by side with hospice organizations and nurses I find this article repulsive. Hospice nursing is HARD stuff. you dont do it for the cash, these nurses care about the dying and their comfort, and helping the families, not killing them off. Some in the medical field do develop a callous or offhanded approach to dying, and I am sure there are sick individuals out there as well. But to imply an entire specialty field is dedicated to killing people off is ridiculous.
19 posted on 12/21/2003 1:02:08 PM PST by I_saw_the_light (I am ISTL of FR. Resistance was futile. I have been assimilated. (I hope I spelled that right))
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To: Gringo1
Yes, if you want to decide what other people do in the last days of their lives, or whether they want to end them, then you want to be a communist.
20 posted on 12/21/2003 1:48:15 PM PST by henderson field
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