DEAR ABBY: I am a former hospice nurse, now completing my graduate training as a nurse-practitioner in oncology. I am dismayed by the frequency with which physicians and the media ignore or misrepresent hospice as an option for terminally ill people and their families.
Hospice is NOT "giving up." It is changing the focus of care to enhance quality of life. The hospice team of nurses, social workers, chaplains and physicians accompanies patients on a difficult journey with an eye to relieving physical, emotional and spiritual pain and suffering. Hospice care alleviates the fear of dying. Indeed, it allows patients to die with dignity and in a way that enhances the beauty and meaning of life and death for them and their families. -- ROSIE TOWNLEY BAKEWELL
DEAR ROSIE: I hope your letter generates the kind of response it deserves, because it's an important one as our population ages. I'm sad to say that even today, patients die protracted and painful deaths because some physicians and misguided but well-intentioned families seem unable or unwilling to admit that the person is terminal. Perhaps some of the fault lies with the medical schools, which have not given end-of-life issues enough attention in their curricula.
Since everyone has to die, a death with dignity seems like the way to make every minute of life one that's worth living.