Catholic healthcare providers and legal professionals in the Denver region convened to share the importance of end-of-life care as a necessary part of a pro-life worldview.
Mark Skender of Divine Mercy Supportive Care, Inc. reminded the more than 60 people in attendance at the Colorado Catholic Medical Association’s Jan. 16 meeting that being pro-life means protecting life from conception to natural death.
Unfortunately, he noted, today there is “not a whole lot of natural death.”
Divine Mercy Supportive Care, Inc., a group of medical and legal professionals who aim to “deliver medical, supportive and spiritual end of life services consistent with the Catholic standard of care to anyone who desires it,” presented information to help Catholics achieve the best care possible as they approach the end of life in a way.
Although hospice care consists of “many caring and compassionate providers,” the group saw a great need to offer care for Catholics that is consistent with Church teaching while providing the “very best medical services.”
Skender highlighted the importance of hospice care while dispelling common myths about it, noting that it is not a kind of “death sentence” as many people may believe.
“What keeps people out is misconception that it's a death sentence, when in fact, if used properly it can be a way to prepare for death and solidify family relationships,” he said.
Deacon Alan Rastrelli, who serves as the organization’s medical director, noted that the average time in hospice care is only about two weeks even though it is designed for those who have six months or less to live. His role with the organization is to help patients sooner than that to prepare them better for death.
“The mindset of American culture is that if you can’t cure that, something is wrong,” he said.
However, as a patient ages and as disease continues to progress, a patient’s base level of health is deteriorated. Eventually, no matter how good the care that the patient receives is, he pointed out, they will die.
By helping arrange Catholic hospice or other forms of end of life care, Deacon Rastrelli said that people can be more comfortable with the knowledge that “eventually we will reach that point.”
Sean Murphy of the Twilight Brigade, a group of trained volunteers dedicated to visiting terminally ill patients in veteran’s hospitals and hospices, lifted the mood by reminding the crowd that simply “being born” is the “number one cause of death.”
Often times people will look at the extreme example of Terri Schiavo and say “I don’t want that to happen,” but are not aware of where to begin the process of how they wish to be cared for at the end of their life, Jim Evans, as estate planning attorney in the Denver region, said.
He discussed the importance of creating an advance planning directive, which is the outline of one’s preferences for medical treatment, especially towards the end of life.
To assist them in the process, his organization has compiled a list of options based on the National Catholic Biomedical Center’s standards of care that a patient can choose, as many people are unsure of what they are able to request.