End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Tragedy Calls Out for Support at the End of Lifeby Blaine

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Kailua, HI – Compassion & Choices Hawaii, an affiliate of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, today responded to the tragic death by gunshot of an elderly couple in Hawaii Kai. Complete facts about this tragedy have not come to light, but what we know fits an unfortunately common pattern. Too often the lives of a loving couple end in violence, as one shoots the other in despair. Unable to live with what they’ve done, they immediately turn the gun on themselves.

Many elders see few options as illness advances and bodily functions deteriorate. Yet options always exist that are preferable to violence and premature death. Death remains a taboo subject in our society, so elders feel they cannot speak openly about situations where they might deem death preferable to a deteriorating and declining quality of life.

“No one, no matter what their condition, should feel they have to resort to violence when confronting advanced illness,” said Dr. Robert “Nate” Nathanson of Waialua, Hawaii. “Patients and their caregivers need to feel safe talking about unbearable symptoms and their feelings of desperation.”

People in Hawaii have many options as they approach the end of life, if they contact a knowledgeable and sympathetic listener. “The fact is that an honest conversation can often prevent a tragedy,” said Dr. Nate, “by leading to respite care, hospice, pain control, counseling or other forms of support.”

Since 1993, Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation program has served thousands of clients, helping them find alternatives to violence. Peaceful, gentle means always exist to end life in a way that honors the life lived. The purpose of Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation program is to ensure excellent end-of-life care and, if that care does not relieve unbearable suffering, provide information on a client’s options for a peaceful, dignified death. Individuals seeking information about end-of-life decisions can access Compassion & Choices Hawaii’s End-of-Life Consultation service by calling 1-800-247-7421.