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And they're still arguing with me. 'Oh, we have to get the ethics committee together,' and all this crap. I had a living will and they wanted to talk about ethics, okay?" (Tercel, 2001). The right to die and physician-assisted suicides are even more volatile because many people are against them for spiritual and ethical reasons, and many physicians and other healthcare professionals feel they go against the entire professional and personal goals of those in the medical profession. It is an extremely delicate area, and one that healthcare providers must address eventually. It seems the matter will ultimately be decided by the courts, but until then, healthcare professionals must weigh the wants of the patient, the family, and the liability of the healthcare facility.
Many different holistic treatments are available to the terminally ill, including hospice treatment in a non-hospital setting, which has become increasingly popular with terminally ill patients. Hospices use a combination of healthcare, social, and spiritual treatments to help make the last days of terminally ill patients more secure and peaceful. In addition to hospice care, there are several other holistic treatments available, including different herbal therapies used in different types of cancers, nutritional therapies used in many different diseases, including cancer, acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapies, mind-body approaches, chelation and other cell and oxygen therapies, and many others as well. Many people swear by these alternative treatments that are not as harsh to the body, but most healthcare professionals do not agree that a majority of them are effective ways of treating diseases. Interestingly, most of the clinics that deal strictly with the most controversial holistic techniques are located out of the country in Mexico or other areas, which may be one way they have been kept from being seen as legitimate sources of healthcare.
Working with terminally ill patients must be one of the most stressful and emotionally difficult jobs in healthcare. Most healthcare providers are in the business of saving lives, as another writer notes. He writes, "As Dr. Sherwin Nuland suggests, 'We live today in the era not of the art of dying, but of the art of saving life, and the dilemmas in that are multitudinous'" (Sexton, 1997). Continually watching patients die can be emotionally draining, but it can also be professionally discouraging when the ultimate goal of the profession is to save lives rather than lose them. Many healthcare professionals cannot deal with the emotionality of working in these situations, while others seem to "shut down" their emotions toward all patients in an effort to keep from becoming involved in their suffering and their illnesses. As one paramedic says, "You separate yourself from things and you develop a thick skin. You try not to identify with the people that you have to deal with" (Tercel, 2001). Thus, dealing with terminally ill patients and their families may be one of the most difficult areas of healthcare. It can be difficult to distance oneself from patients, and it can be extremely painful and distressing to see patients die day after day, and no hope for cure or recovery. Healthcare professionals need to assess whether they can deal with the continuing pressures of this type of environment day after day. They also need to assess their own strength and ability to withstand depression and burnout. If they are susceptible to these afflictions, they may do better in some other healthcare setting.
Changing attitudes toward death and dying. (1994, April). USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 122, 16.
Hospice care: Living better, living with hope. (2000, February 28). Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), p. 4.
Hunker, P.G. (1997, August 5). Grappling with grieving: Youngsters cope best when death is discussed naturally, not in crisis. The Washington Times, p. 1.
Kubler-Ross, E. (1989). On death and dying. London: Routledge.
Lustig, a. (2003, May 23). End-of-life decisions: Does faith make a difference?. Commonweal, 130, 7.
Munley, a. (1983). The hospice alternative: A new context for death and dying. New York: Basic Books.
Romulo, B.D. Advocate for the terminally ill. (2004, September 23). Manila Bulletin, p. NA.
Sexton, J. (1997). The semantics of death and dying: Metaphor and mortality. ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, 54(3), 333+.
Tercel, S. (2001, October). Will the circle be unbroken? Interviews with a paramedic,…[continue]
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