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Family Caregiver Alliance Subtly Insinuates Assisted Suicide into the Care Giving Mix

Posted Apr 18 2009 12:12am
This is subtle, but I think, very alarming. The Family Caregiver Alliance touts itself as a resource for people providing care for family members and others. From its "End of Life Choices" published on the FGA Web site:

Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) seeks to improve the quality of life for caregivers through education, services, research and advocacy... FCA provides direct family support services for caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease, stroke, head injury, Parkinson's and other debilitating disorders that strike adults.
Sounds good, and I am sure it is. But then it gets scary: One of the "resources," indeed the first listed after the group itself (due to alphabetization), is the assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices.

In light of that listing, following statement about care giving for people who are dying takes on a decidedly darker tone:
As death nears, most people feel a lessening of their desire to live longer. This is not a matter of depression. Instead, they sense it is time to let go, perhaps as in other times in life when one senses it is time for a major change. Examples might be leaving home, getting married, divorcing or changing jobs. Some people describe a sense of profound tiredness, of a tiredness that no longer goes away with rest. Others, who may have overcome many adversities in their lives, reach a point where they feel they have struggled as much as they have been called upon to do and will struggle no more. Refusing to let go can prolong dying, but it cannot prevent it. Dying, thus prolonged, can become more a time of suffering than of living

Family members and friends who love the dying person may experience a similar change. At first, one refuses to admit the possibility of a loved one dying. Then one refuses to accept the death happening. Lastly, one may see that dying is the better of two bad choices, and be ready to give the loved one permission to die. As mentioned, the dying are distressed at causing grief for those who love them, and, receiving permission to die can relieve their distress. There is a time for this to happen. Before that, it feels wrong to accept a loss, but after that it can be an act of great kindness to say, "You may go when you feel it is time. I will be okay."
They don't come right out and say it--and hospice organizations are also listed as resources--but the C and C endorsement, and the choice of words used, would seem to be at least a "between the lines" endorsement of assisted suicide as a means of "letting go"--both to benefit the cared for and the care giver.

The section on "Making the Decision," adds credence to my concern:
Is it time to let go? Or time to give a loved one permission to die? There are three ways to help decide. First, look at the medical situation. Has the illness really reached its final stages? When it has, the body is usually moving on its own toward dying, with strength declining, appetite poor, and often the mind becoming sleepier and more confused. Treatments are no longer working as well as before, and everyday activities are becoming more and more burdensome. In a sense, life is disappearing. Second, talk with people you trust. Discuss the situation with the family members and friends who seem to be able to see things as they are. You might also talk with people who are not personally involved. [Me: Meaning C and C?] Choose the people whose judgment you trust, not just those with an official role of giving advice. [Me: Meaning physicians, clergy, mental health professionals?] Most importantly, what does the dying person think? Third, listen to your heart. Try to see beyond your fears and wishes, to what love and caring are saying to you. What is really best for the one who is dying, and for the others around? Given that death is unavoidable, what is the kindest thing to do? It might be holding on. It might be letting go.
Because it endorses Compassion and Choices and links directly to the assisted suicide group, this text, which might otherwise seem to be reasonable, is not benign. When care giver advocates swallow the hemlock, vulnerable patients may be put at real risk.
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