End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedViolence

Preventable Tragedy Highlights Need for Aid in Dying

Issue Currently Before Connecticut Court
Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest advocate for end-of-life care and choices, responded to the tragic deaths in North Haven, Connecticut, described as “a murder-suicide,” of 73 year-old Thomas Vanacore and 70-year-old Joan Vanacore on Monday, May 10. The tragedy could and should have been avoided. Thomas Vanacore was reportedly dying of throat cancer and his wife Joan of Alzheimer’s disease. Thomas is reported to have shot his wife and then himself to death.

“These recent deaths illustrate the desperation patients feel, and the need for rational public policy on end-of-life choices,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices. “Only Oregon, Washington, and Montana currently have rational policies. The time has come to close the door on underground, desperate actions by suffering patients.”

The Vanacores should have been able to turn to their physician if they found their dying processes to be unbearable and request a prescription for medication they could consume to bring about a peaceful death.

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Stop Abandoning Dying Patients to Unbearable Suffering, Illegal Acts & Violent Deaths

Death with Dignity laws prevent violent deaths

Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit working to expand end-of-life care and choice, responded to the violent death of a Laguna Woods woman with cancer and the arrest of her 90-year-old husband for manslaughter:

“Violent deaths of terminal patients are one hundred percent preventable. Loving spouses resort to extreme, violent and desperate acts when support and legal options are inadequate,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices. “Violence at the end of life is a symptom of a national crisis-the unbearable suffering and frightful options many loving families face when enduring a painful and prolonged dying process. This week’s developments illustrate the desperation patients and their caregivers feel, and the need for rational public policy on end-of-life choices. Only Oregon, Washington and Montana currently have rational policies with strict guidelines in place. The time has come to close the door on covert behavior and violent actions by suffering patients and their families.”

Oregon physician Dr. Nick Gideonse has commented on other cases in the past, “Instead of being forced into considering options like guns or other violent methods, patients should be able to talk with their physicians about a range of legal, safe, peaceful options for easing a painful dying process. The only way to protect patients, families and doctors, and enforce safeguards around aid in dying, is through laws such as Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.”

While Compassion & Choices (C&C) is not aware of all the facts in this particular case, C&C is available to provide mentally competent terminally ill adults, their families and caregivers, with end-of-life consultation, referrals for appropriate care, and, if needed, personal support at the time of death.

Since 1993, Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation program has served thousands of clients and helped them find a way to humane and peaceful dying. C&C applies guidelines and safeguards similar to those practiced safely under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act for 11 years. Our client relationships are confidential and our average length of contact with a client is 180 days-we know our clients well.

“California leaders have drastically cut support for Caregiver Resource Centers, leaving little support for those who care for family members, and opening the door to desperate acts like these. Lawmakers and organized medicine are also guilty of dereliction of duty for not setting clear, regulated guidelines for aid in dying,” said Coombs Lee. “Without such public policies, patients and families are isolated, suffer in legal limbo, and are not able to make informed, open end-of-life decisions. This legal paralysis does nothing to prevent unnecessary suffering and tragic, violent deaths that traumatize families.”

The purpose of Compassion & Choices End-of-Life Consultation program is to ensure excellent end-of-life care and, if unbearable suffering persists, provide information and support to achieve a peaceful, dignified death.

Compassion & Choices is a national organization serving patients and their families, advocating for expanding legal end-of-life choices, and educating the public. Our experts are available for interviews. Individuals seeking information about end-of-life decisions can access our End of Life Consultation service by calling 1-800-247-7421.

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