Suicide versus Hospice Care

What does it say for us as health care providers when a patient who receives a diagnosis of cancer commits suicide? The thought of enduring treatments without cure, suffering physical pain and medication side effects, not to mention facing one’s own mortality, can sometimes push even an individual over the edge. I have to wonder whether we are truly meeting the needs of our patients when I hear that someone has committed suicide because they couldn’t deal with the thought of dying a difficult death. And why does any death need to be "difficult"? It is sad that people perceive hospice as "The Grim Reaper coming through the door with a sickle and shroud to kill you with their morphine". Sadly, this perception is not limited to patients. Medical professionals are in serious need of education about end of life care and pain management and symptom management for a family to hear "you have to give up everything in order to be eligible for hospice" or "hospice means you’re dying" from a medical professional feeds the fears and stigma associated with the very term. Suicide should never be a mechanism in which to manage a life limiting illness. Should people choose to hear, they would learn that hospice can provide them excellent symptom management, allow for life closure, and place their needs at the center of care. Death can be peaceful, serene, and dignified. It is only difficult when fueled by ignorance.

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