In the last century, medical and technological advances have provided new and better ways to keep death at bay. But while the ability to prolong life is welcome in many cases, in patients who are terminally ill, it can turn the issue of how and when to die into a technical decision in which the patient and family have little say.
To redress this situation, hospice care was introduced to the United States 25 years ago. A hospice team consisting of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers helps terminally ill patients and their families come to terms with issues of death and dying. They provide palliative care for the patient and support for the family through the patient's illness and bereavement counseling for family members after the patient's death.
Florence S. Wald, MSN (Photo courtesy of Florence S. Wald)
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