The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What Do You Think of Hospice?

What is your faith tradition’s perspective on the use of hospice services?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

 

/The Rapidian

I received a question recently by email. Upon thanking the sender, I received an auto-response that the owner of the email had died … five years ago! I wish the story had ended here, mystery unsolved, so I could imagine that this column has fans in the great beyond. However, the email response had an alternative email contact of the brother of the deceaased, and after some investigation the brother determined that a friend had unauthorized access to the account and had used the account to send the question anonymously. We at Ethics and Religion Talk appreciate your questions, even those that come from beyond the grave, and I assure you that and we will always protect your anonymity. Send questions to [email protected].

A question submitted to an interfaith panel on approaches to hospice care: What is your faith tradition’s perspective on the use of hospice services?

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Recently my temple pastoral duties included walking with a devotee on his final journey. He was a man of great faith and, more important, spiritual practice. He was a joy to be around until the very end. One of the ways he wanted me to contribute to his last months was to meet with him and his hospice caregivers. He knew that I could explain Hindu concepts of death and dying in a way they would understand.  The care they provided was exceptional. They were very respectful of our requests and seemed to serve with a great deal of love and sense of duty.

“I experienced the same when my mother was in hospice. 

“I have never encountered a Hindu who had anything but positive things to say about hospice, whether it was actual experience or simply the concept of it. As long as those providing it are respectful of the religion or worldview of the patient it is a great blessing to have as we prepare for transition.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Hospice services are often referred to as palliative care. The Roman Catholic Church looks favorably on these services if they are not intended to end life before death occurs naturally. The palliative care given by hospice services respects the life cared for by providing the necessary medication and comfort needed during the dying process. This has the positive benefit of saving significantly on the cost of healthcare per person in the United States.

“If anyone wishes further information, the United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops www.usccb.org and the Catholic Health Association of the United States www.cha.org have a plethora of resources for anyone who wishes to research the ethics of palliative care as well as guidance in choosing this service.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“The doctrinal standards of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches make no mention of hospice care, because in former days, ‘heroic efforts’ to prolong the days of the dying were not a part of their care. ‘Hospice care’ is not new, but something old that has been rediscovered for the comfort and help of a new generation.

“The law of God forbids all human efforts to shorten life, whether by homicide, suicide, or ‘assisted dying.’ But no law requires us to exhaust all possible remedies afforded by modern medicine before yielding to the power of death. Hospice services provide a better way to care for the dying.. Even better is for each Christian to come to terms with his or her own mortality. Charles Hodge wisely said, ‘It is important that when we come to die, we have nothing to do but die.’ ”

Dr Sahibzada, the Director of Islamic Center and Imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Life is a gift from Almighty God, and it must be protected and safeguarded with all means and sources available to humanity by God. Life of this world is for a certain time. It must end as commanded by God. Therefore, it must not be prolonged beyond possibility of hope.

“When human knowledge indicates life is ending, then hospice services are to be used without any delay and reservation. Whatever we do or try our best; God’s Will has to prevail ultimately.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“Unitarian Universalists fully support and use hospice services when the time comes.”

My response:

Jewish ethics understands there to be an obligation to preserve life, but not to artificially draw out the process of dying; understands that the patient has autonomy to make medical decisions in his or her own best interests; understands that no one has an obligation to suffer pain at the end of life. Therefore, Jewish ethics and tradition understands that hospice care is typically the most appropriate and compassionate care for relieving pain and allowing the patient to die in peace.

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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