Newswire

The Life Matters Media Newswire aims to serve as a comprehensive portal of all news related to end of life decision making and care. We aggregate stories from other media outlets in one place- here, where you can access them easily. We also strive to produce original content covering stories we feel are receiving scant attention.


Illinois Prepares For New POLST Form

POLST-Logo

Seriously ill patients in Illinois may benefit from the new Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, a medical order designed to travel with patients across care settings and direct doctors to provide or withhold lifesaving treatments.

“POLST has swept the nation, and Chicago is right in the middle of it,” said Dr. Julie Goldstein, a clinical ethicist and chair of the POLST Illinois Taskforce. “If done correctly, the POLST model will improve conversations about end of life and ethical care.” Goldstein addressed dozens of medical providers and caregivers Wednesday during a POLST webinar in support of National Health Care Decisions Day.

In 2013, Illinois modified the Department of Public Health Uniform DNR Advance Directive to closer resemble the National POLST Paradigm standard. POLSTs are more detailed than conventional living wills and advance directives– these forms give patients the freedom to indicate preferences regarding resuscitation, intubation, intravenous antibiotics and feeding tubes, among other things.

POLSTIL

Illinois POLST form

For instance, a terminally ill cancer patient may choose to decline resuscitation efforts, but opt for artificial nutrition. An elderly patient suffering severe dementia may opt for comfort care only.

The form is intended only for individuals in their last year of life, a point Goldstein stressed. “POLST is not for everyone. We recommend physicians ask themselves the “surprise” question: Would you be surprised if your patient died within one year?”
Ideally, patients will discuss their end of life wishes with friends and family before filling it out. “It is a process, not a single conversation,” Goldstein added during the informational call. “It allows the patient more time to think about future scenarios and discuss them with family, friends and care providers.” The Illinois POLST is divided into basic sections– CPR; medical interventions; artificial nutrition– and must be signed by a physician.

Physicians, nurses and emergency responders must also follow patients’ preferences when indicated on completed forms.

According to the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act: “A health care professional or health care provider, or an employee of a health care professional or health care provider, who in good faith complies with a do-not-resuscitate order made in accordance with this Act … may not be found to have committed an act of unprofessional conduct.”

POLST was first developed in Oregon in the 1990s, and now 14 states have officially endorsed programs; 28 states are considering the use of these forms.

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“Death With Dignity” Makes Gains In Massachusetts

Statehouse

Massachusetts Statehouse, Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

After suffering a narrow defeat in 2012, proponents of a “Death with Dignity” law in Massachusetts are hopeful that an increase in public support for aid in dying legislation will influence state lawmakers. Proposed legislation would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medications to some terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

More than 70 percent of likely Massachusetts voters support “Death with Dignity” legislation; that marks a ten point increase from 2012, according to Purple Strategies polling. Nearly 80 percent said they oppose government interference in the decisions that terminally ill patients could make with their families and doctors.

Last month, more than 7,000 petitions were signed by Massachusetts residents and delivered to the Public Safety Committee in hopes that they would release a bill for a House vote. Marie Manis, campaign manager with advocacy group Compassion & Choices, said she believes the proposals will offer terminally ill patients more end of life choices.

“If these legislators are listening to their constituents, they will move quickly and take this bill up, again, for the sake of thousands of terminally ill Massachusetts residents and the people who love them. This is good legislation, and we are confident that with further study, the committee will recognize its merits,” Manis said in a statement. “Citizens understand their government has no business interfering in their personal medical decisions and limiting their end of life choices.”

The bill must be approved by the Massachusetts legislature, as it cannot come to a state-wide ballot vote for two election cycles, according to the state Constitution. In 2012, 51 percent of Massachusetts voters voted against the legislation. The Vermont legislature passed a similar measure in 2013, the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, based on Oregon’s 1994 aid in dying law.

Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center based in Portland, OR, told LMM that Massachusetts could become the first “big state” to enact “Death with Dignity” legislation.

“We want to build up New England, and Massachusetts is an important state,” Sandeen said. “The people are pretty clear on what they want, and the polling shows that, but legislators are usually scared of these issues, partly because of the death taboo in America.”

But many medical professionals and religious conservatives argue “Death with Dignity” laws diminish the sanctity of life. State Rep. Vinnie DeMacedo, a Republican, told New England Cable News the legislation marks a “slippery slope.”

“We, as a society, are saying that it’s okay that a doctor can decide and help end somebody’s life,” Macedo said. “What is the diagnosis, and is it two months? Is it four months? Is it 15 months? We don’t know.”

The Roman Catholic Church was one of the most vocal opponents of the 2012 measure.

“In 2012, primarily Catholic organizations spent five times as much on advertising in the final weeks before the ballot vote than we did. They threw money at it,” Anne Singer, campaign communications manager with Compassion & Choices, told LMM. “But lawmakers are listening to us and our supporters. We are very hopeful.”

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Belgium: King Legalizes Euthanasia For Children

Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Belgium has become the first nation to remove all age restrictions to euthanasia, after King Phillipe approved controversial amendments to the country’s 2002 euthanasia law this month.

A child of any age may be helped to die under strict conditions: the child must be terminally ill, close to death and suffering a great amount of pain. Counseling by doctors and a psychiatrist or psychologist is required, as is approval by parents or guardians. The child must possess the “capacity of discernment and be conscious” of requesting death.

The amendments easily passed the Belgian House of Representatives 86 to 44 in February, following a vote by the country’s Senate in December in support of the measure.

Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, sponsor of the country’s 2002 “right to die” legislation, called for the law’s expansion because he said doctors have been illegally helping sick children die. Mahoux, a trained surgeon, called euthanasia “the ultimate gesture of humanity,” according to Agence France-Presse. “The scandal is illness and the death of children from disease.”

Opponents, including religious leaders and some medical professionals, argue that children are not capable of making such difficult decisions. “The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die,” Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard said at a prayer vigil during the vote.

CitizenGo, a Spanish conservative lobby, delivered more than 200,000 signatures to the monarch demanding that he reject the bill, according to AFPAlvaro Zulueta, one of the petition organizers, said more than 5,000 signatures came from concerned Belgians, although Italians made up the largest number of respondents.

King Philippe in Antwerp, 2013. Courtesy WIkiMedia Commons.

King Philippe in Antwerp, 2013. Courtesy WIkiMedia Commons.

In 2012, euthanasia accounted for 2 percent of all deaths in Belgium, up 25 percent to nearly 1,400 cases. A terminally ill person may drink a barbiturate-laden syrup, or a doctor can administer the drug through an intravenous tube to induce death.

Belgium is one of a handful of European countries where euthanasia is legal. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002, allowing it in some cases for seriously ill minors 12 and older. Luxembourg allows euthanasia for adults; Switzerland allows doctors to help patients die in some circumstances.

The bill is making waves across the U.S. Noted painter and Christian author Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic due to a teenage diving accident, called the law “devastating” and “the most liberal euthanasia law in the world.” Speaking during the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, TN, Tada called for a “backlash” against it.

Euthanasia is banned in the U.S., but physician-assisted suicide, or “Death with Dignity,” is legal in four states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

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Nurse Prosecuted For Murder After Allegedly Pulling Life Support

Grissom

April R. Grissom is accused of ‘depraved heart murder’

A Mississippi registered nurse is facing charges of depraved heart murder, according to the state’s attorney generalApril Renae Grissom, 28, is accused of turning off machines that were helping to keep a 77-year-old patient alive at the medical facility where she worked.

Attorney General Jim Hood said in a news release that Grissom turned herself in Wednesday, after she was indicted by a Lamar County grand jury. Under Mississippi law, depraved heart murder is an action that demonstrates a “callous disregard for human life” and results in death. If convicted, Grissom could face up to life in prison.

Grissom was booked at the county jail under $10,000 bond.

According to court documents provided to Life Matters Media: While working as a registered nurse at Wesley Medical Center on March 26, Grissom entered the room of the patient without medical orders or “clinical inclination” and turned off the dialysis machine, the amiodarone drip, and decreased the norepinephrine and phynelephrin drips causing death. The victim’s name was redacted.

“This is a matter that involves an individual who was an employee of Wesley Medical Center, but has not worked at the hospital since April 2013. The hospital has cooperated with local law enforcement in their investigation,” said Wesley Medical Center in a statement to LMM.

Prosecutors are seeking an enhanced penalty due to the victim’s age and impairments. The trial has been set for September 16 to 18 in Lamar County Circuit Court, according to the attorney general’s office. Judge Mozingo will hear the case.

Updated 3/11/2014

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Belgium: Euthanasia For Children Nears Approval

Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

The Belgian Parliament has adopted a controversial bill extending the right to euthanasia to terminally ill children, the Parliament announced Thursday via Twitter.

The bill easily passed the Belgian House of Representatives 86 to 44, following a vote by the country’s Senate in December in support of the measure. The bill is expected to be signed by King Philippe, making Belgium the first country in the world to remove age limits to the practice.

“Our responsibility is to allow everybody to live, but also to die, in dignity,” said Karine Lalieux, a Socialist member of the House of Representatives, according to The Associated Press.

Under amendments to the country’s 2002 euthanasia law, a child of any age may be helped to die under strict conditions: the child must be terminally ill, close to death and suffering a great amount of pain. Counseling by doctors and a psychiatrist or psychologist is required, as is approval by parents or guardians. The child must possess the “capacity of discernment and be conscious” of requesting death.

Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, sponsor of the country’s 2002 “right to die” legislation, called for the law’s expansion because he said doctors have been illegally helping sick children die. Mahoux, a trained surgeon, called euthanasia “the ultimate gesture of humanity,” according to Agence France-Presse. ”The scandal is illness and the death of children from disease.”

Opponents, including religious leaders and some medical professionals, argue that children are not capable of making such difficult decisions. ”The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die,” Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard said at a prayer vigil last week, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, 160 pediatricians petitioned lawmakers to postpone the vote arguing the bill is unnecessary. “Pain can be eased nowadays; there’s been huge progress in palliative care,” Nadine Francotte, a cancer specialist in the city of Liege, told AFP.

In 2012, euthanasia accounted for 2 percent of all deaths in Belgium, up 25 percent to nearly 1,400 cases. A terminally ill person may drink a barbiturate-laden syrup, or a doctor can administer the drug through an intravenous tube to induce death.

Belgium is one of a handful of European countries where euthanasia is legal. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002, even allowing it in some cases for seriously ill minors 12 and older. Luxembourg allows euthanasia for adults; Switzerland allows doctors to help patients die in some circumstances.

Euthanasia is banned in the U.S., but physician-assisted suicide, or “Death with Dignity,” is legal in four states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

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daniel-gaitanDaniel Gaitan

Daniel Gaitan serves as a content producer...More