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.
A Mississippi registered nurse is facing charges of depraved heart murder, according to the state’s attorney general. April 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.
Prosecutors are seeking an enhanced penalty due to the victim’s age and impairments. Grissom was set to be arraigned Monday, but waived it, according to the attorney general’s office.
“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.
The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) released the first report of its kind highlighting the unique status of Hispanic lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults. The organization plans to use their findings in recommendations to legislators and health care providers.
Throughout 2012, researchers interviewed seniors, caregivers and service providers to better understand the experiences and challenges facing this aging population. Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE) collaborated on the report.
“The rapid aging of the population presents our country with the opportunity to embrace diversity as it appears at all stages of life,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA president and CEO. “Our hope with the In Their Own Words: A Needs Assessment of Hispanic LGBT Older Adults report is that we can be an active part of the necessary paradigm shift that needs to take place so that we can achieve a stronger, golden America for all, including LGBT Hispanic older adults.”
Although family support is one of the most desirable relationships for older Hispanics, many in the LGBT community say their family ties are broken. Participants expressed feelings of social isolation within their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Acceptance is very difficult among us Latinos, maybe because of our nature,” said a participant. “When a mother divorces and she wants to remarry, the children won’t accept it. The same thing is with homosexuality. The thing is to orient people bit by bit and find ways to prepare oneself, introduce this to each person and see if they are accepting.” Unfortunately, many LGBT seniors find themselves jumping from couch to couch to avoid living in shelters; others become homeless from lack of support.
The participants who do not face prejudice from their family said they still face problems of rejection and emotional and psychological abuse. According to another participant: “In my opinion, the rejection is more from society than from the family. Of course, there are exceptions, but society’s rejection is worse… It is the one that marginalizes.”
Although almost all participants were passionate about causes ranging from same-sex marriage to affordable housing, many said they do not volunteer for fear of rejection and a lack of knowledge about their rights.
Others offered their mixed experiences with organized religion. Some said they attend church regularly; others said they do not believe in organized religion and cultivate their own spirituality privately.
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe in any religion as an institution. In our community, certain people were altar boys when young. But when they grew up, they were thrown out of these same churches and that was traumatic,” said an older adult. Some said they are still discriminated against by members of specific religious institutions, such as members of fundamentalist Protestant churches.
The report focused more on gathering interviews than on producing raw data and figures. Jason Coates, a public policy associate who helped develop focus groups for the report, told Life Matters Media more research is needed. “When we were conducting this study we found there was no research on Hispanic LGBT older adults. This is an important report and serves as a foundation to researchers on where to look next.”
Extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to new findings from psychologist John Cacioppo.
The research, presented during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Chicago, shows the impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which Cacioppo determined increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent. Another study determined loneliness was twice as deadly as obesity.
Cacioppo and his colleagues looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in the physical and mental health of people as they age; they also examined the role of satisfying relationships on older people to measure their resilience. They reviewed survey responses from more than 2,100 adults 55 and older, accounting for age, gender and socioeconomic status. Seniors suffering from severe loneliness were nearly twice as likely to die over the six-year study period than others.
Older Americans facing loneliness may lack sleep, have elevated blood pressure and face morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, among other effects, Cacioppo said during the talk “Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging.”
“Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” said Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. He suggests seniors stay in touch with former co-workers and take part in family traditions to avoid feelings of isolation.
Cacioppo identified three core dimensions to healthy relationships: intimate connectedness, which comes from having someone in your life you feel affirms who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from mutually rewarding face-to-face contacts; and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling that you are part of a larger group or collective body. Although some people are happy alone, most thrive from social situations in which they provide mutual support.
“We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. Each day between 2011 and 2030, an average of 10,000 people will turn 65,” he said. “People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality.”
As Cacioppo wrote in his 2008 book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection: ”Humans are, after all, inherently social beings. When people are asked what pleasures contribute most to happiness, the overwhelming majority rate love, intimacy, and social affiliation above wealth or fame, even above physical health.”
As Belgium becomes the first country in the world to remove all age restrictions to euthanasia, health care experts and ethicists are debating whether or not terminally ill children should ever be allowed access to life-ending drugs.
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.
But the law– expected to soon be signed by King Philippe– has faced strong opposition from both religious conservatives and physicians who argue that euthanasia is unnecessary, because modern medical technologies help minimize suffering.
“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, according to the BBC.
I don’t think euthanasia is for every society and every place in the world, but I’m not willing to say it is always wrong.
Craig M. Klugman, a professor of bioethics at DePaul University in Chicago, said discussions about euthanasia are emotional because they touch upon an individual’s religious, political or medical beliefs. ”The sanctity of life argument is a very personal one. Different religions have different views on what makes a life sacred, and in some cultures, a child is not a born human being until a month after its birth, because the infant mortality rates are so high. In others, life starts at the moment of conception,” he said.
But Klugman points to the sickest of children, whose entire existence is pain. “Some people might say we can control pain, but it is really difficult for an infant or newborn to tell us what they want, all they can do is scream and cry. But, they also cannot provide consent.”
Loving parents who choose to end the life of their suffering child could be viewed as morally courageous, while others would call them cowardly, Klugman said. “I don’t think euthanasia is for every society and every place in the world, but I’m not willing to say it is always wrong. If the parents determine in conjunction with the physician that it is a life whose quality is so poor that it is not worth living, then yes, I would support their freedom to make this decision.”
According to Klugman, the argument that legalized euthanasia will lead to “death panels” or eugenics is false. “Slippery slope arguments are considered a fallacy, because they assume we don’t have the ability to say ‘when,’” he said. “They assume that we don’t have any critical thinking or acting skills, and they have not often been proven true.”
Eric Price, M.Div., a pediatric care chaplain, argues that some seriously ill children should be granted equal access to euthanasia if they are suffering. “I don’t think we need to parse children into a different category,” he said. “It will always feel worse when we are talking about sick or terminally ill children. The suffering of a 7-year-old is no different than the suffering of a 70-year-old.”
However, Jean Kosova, a registered nurse and ethicist practicing in Chicago, said she believes palliative medicine should be viewed as a practical alternative to euthanasia. “We should be focusing on pain relief, and not allowing people to get to the point where they feel any comfort is hopeless,” she said. “But, working as a nurse, I have seen a lot of people in pain, even with the best medicines.”
Kosova’s concerns are with those children under 12. “It would be difficult to say that a child under 12 would be able to decide in the ways that we would hope an adult making these kind of decisions would be able to,” she said.
Similarly, Dr. Andrew Bonwit, an assistant professor of pediatrics with Loyola University, maintains euthanasia is an unnecessary practice. “Let’s redirect the goals of care when patients are terminal and help families come to terms,” he said. “We should make good use of every pain control measure available, including terminal sedation.”
Bonwit’s experiences have led him to conclude that young children are incapable of making difficult end of life decisions for themselves. “I would be very leery of letting children under 12 years of age choose euthanasia, just as I would be very leery of letting children under 12 choose for their goals of care to be redirected,” he said. “Asking a child to make this decision is something I would have difficulty with, but I also don’t practice in Belgium.”
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. The practice is banned in the U.S., but physician-assisted suicide, or “Death with Dignity,” is legal in four states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.
“Euthanasia will never come to the U.S., hands down,” Klugman said, citing history. “A lot of World War II was about euthanasia, the Nazi experiments, the Japanese experiments, even the U.S. experiments that were done without consent. A lot of our medical ethics and social norms are based on those experiences.”
More than 130 DePaul University students braved the Chicago cold to attend “Planning The Good Death,” a lecture that fostered deep discussion about the importance of end of life planning. Presented by the DePaul Humanities Center, the event urged students to “ask what it means to prepare for death and what role such preparation might play in making that death a good death.”
Dr. Julie Goldstein, director of clinical ethics and palliative medicine at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, said every adult should complete an advance health care directive to ensure their end of life wishes are carried through. Such documents may take the form of a living will, durable power of attorney or do-not-resuscitate order.
“These days, every adult, even those who are 18, should have an advance directive in place,” Goldstein told the students. “I hope they bring these conversations back to their parents, too.”
Goldstein raised the controversial 2005 case of Terri Schiavo to show what could happen to individuals unable to make their own health care decisions. “For Schiavo, it was easier for the parents to challenge the authority of the husband, because he was identified probably first by default law, or by a judge who said he was the guardian,” Goldstein said. “But neither of those carried out what she actually wanted.” It would have been much harder for Schiavo’s parents to challenge her husband if she had an advance directive in place.
“I think discussions about end of life are taboo because we never think we are going to die,” said Erin Scheffler, a 21-year-old majoring in sociology.
Scheffler, who attended the event out of her interest in issues related to mental health, said she hopes to begin completing advance health care directives. “Something could happen to me tomorrow, or next week. I have talked to my family about the DNR, because my mom works at a hospital. I have heard the horror stories of people left helpless at the end.”
The student cast of Other Plays by Andy Kaufman attended the event as a “bonding exercise.” Logan Breitbart, 21, said he seldom thought about issues related to the end of life. “At this point, ‘pull the plug if I become a vegetable’ is such a cliche, so you don’t really think about the ramifications of such a profound statement. Advance care planning is definitely something I need to look into,” he said.
Other students said they believe discussions about death and dying are uncommon because they can strike fear and anxiety in many. Twenty-one-year-old James Callahan said he believes such conversations make people uncomfortable because it reflects their mortality. “I don’t know what people think they are holding on to when they push to continue life-sustaining treatments,” he said. “When it comes to me, I want the plug pulled, absolutely.”
- Advance Care Planning
- Hospice and Palliative Care
- Life Choices
- Politics and Law
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- Treatments and Illness
- Health Care
- Facing Alzheimer’s Together
- Soup For The Soul: Living With Alzheimer’s
- Nurse Prosecuted For Murder After Allegedly Pulling Life Support
- Older LGBT Hispanics Face Discrimination, Loneliness: Part Two In Series
- Canada: A National Dialogue About End Of Life Care
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Daniel Gaitan serves as a content producer...More