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Humane Passing: Hospice of Michigan Marks 30 Years of Service; "Ace of Cakes" Presenting Special Cake

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"Ace of Cakes" event will commemorate Hospice anniversary

Food Network star and celebrity chef Duff Goldman will help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hospice of Michigan with a book-signing, on-stage "conversation" event and presentation of a custom cake. Event information and tickets available through Hospice of Michigan.

Despite the fact that every person on earth will eventually die, Americans still have a long way to go to openly consider the subject of humane death. So suggests Dr. James B. Fahner, Chief Pediatric Oncologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Hospice of Michigan Foundation. When asked how well he thinks Americans deal with end of life issues he responded, “We are absolutely terrible.” He then added, quoting Hospice of Michigan CEO Dottie E. Deremo, “the American public thinks death is optional”.


The facts indeed show that the vast majority of Americans spend their final days and weeks in sterile hospitals, undergoing often invasive and expensive attempts to try and stave off the inevitable. Following her landmark 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross testified in front of a U.S. Senate panel, saying “We live in a very particular death-denying society. We isolate both the dying and the old, and it serves a purpose. They are reminders of our own mortality. We should not institutionalize people. We can give families more help with home care and visiting nurses, giving the families and the patients the spiritual, emotional and financial help in order to facilitate the final care at home.”


For decades, the hospice movement in the United States has been working to promote the approach Dr. Kubler-Ross outlined. Through increasing efforts of hospice organizations and their supporters, options for choosing comfort care over curative services have been growing. The centerpiece of comfort care is known as palliative care.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as “The active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. Control of pain, of other symptoms and of psychological, social and spiritual problems, is paramount. The goal of palliative care is achievement of the best quality of life for patients and their families".


Hospice of Michigan is the largest hospice provider in the State, serving 25 percent of hospice patients in Michigan. Poised to celebrate 30 years of service to patients and families, it is a nonprofit organization.


“We are very proud of our not for profit roots” said Dr. Fahner. “Our cornerstone principle is open access.”


Hospice of Michigan serves patients regardless of age, ability to pay or complexity of care. This philosophy has led to the organization pursuing new frontiers in end-of-life care, including establishment of the only dedicated pediatrics hospice team in the state.


When asked how Hospice has changed over the years, Dr. Fahner paints a picture of how hospice proponents were once considered rebel outsiders in the medical field. To promote a focus on comfort and quality of life over the futile pursuit of a cure at all costs was a radical proposition. Though the first modern hospice was opened in the 1940’s in Great Britain, the most significant move toward mainstream practice in the US came in 1986 when the United States Congress formally legislated hospice care a Medicare reimbursable service. Many third party payers followed suit.


“Hospice has transitioned from being the rebels to being remarkably mainlined into medical care”, says Dr. Fahner.


Today, hospice care encompasses a wide range of services from actual hospice facilities to at-home care, with home-based services comprising the core. Hospice of Michigan does receive Medicare reimbursement payments, however, Dr. Fahner made it clear that it “certainly does not cover all the services provided through any hospice and certainly does not cover if a hospice is committed to open access. Services are provided through a combination of trained volunteers and community supporters and donors. We could not do any of the specialty programming (such as the pediatric hospice program) without philanthropic support.”


Hospice of Michigan is using the occasion of their 30th anniversary to help encourage and grow that support. They are bringing Duff Goldman, star chef of Food Network program “Ace of Cakes” to Grand Rapids for two fundraising events. A book signing will take place at Schuler Books, 86 Monroe Center Street NW, downtown on September 14 at 6 p.m. On September 15 there will be a live chat and conversation event with the “Ace of Cakes” at DeVos Performance Hall. Following the chat, Chef Goldman will lead the audience into Devos Place for the unveiling of a special Hospice of Michigan 30th anniversary cake.


When asked what one misconception he would most like to correct for the public, Dr. Fahner said, “that by choosing hospice you are somehow letting someone down. End of life treatment is often nonproductive, invasive and truly futile. Having seen families in both circumstances, the ‘gotta go down shooting no matter what’ as opposed to ‘I will be at home in my bed, with my family and my pets and my books,’ (the latter) is so inexplicably better.”


Tickets for the 30th Anniversary Hospice of Michigan fundraising event are available through the Hospice of Michigan website. For more information about Hospice of Michigan go to

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