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How is hospice care different from euthanasia?

Stacie Karczmiarz
Oncology Nursing

Hospice teams provide care for the patient throughout the final stages of disease. Hospice work also focuses on supporting the family of the patient. Treatment goals for the patient focus on the management of symptoms, such as pain, anxiety, shortness of breath etc. The medications doctors prescribe for hospice patients, which are given to the patients by nurses in facilities or to the patient directly if the patient is well enough to be home; these medications do not hasten death. The medications given do not cause death to occur quicker or sooner. This is often a misconception of what hospice does. Hospice focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable as possible by controlling or minimizing the negative effect of the patient's symptoms. 

Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing
Euthanasia is defined as an intentional killing for mercy, regardless of the method. Mercy killing in humans is a form of assisted suicide, which is heatedly debated throughout the world. Hospice organizations do not provide euthanasia. Hospice provides care, education and support as the end of life approaches; hospice associates embrace death as a natural part of the life-cycle, but they do not hasten it.
Hospice care is a set of services provided to people approaching the end of their life. Hospice care addresses the needs not only of the person with a terminal illness, but also for their families and caregivers too and bereavement services continue for 13 months after the person dies. The intention of hospice care is to address the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of the person with a life limiting disease. The provision of care centers around addressing symptoms and improving the quality of life. So essentially, the difference is that euthanasia is about utilizing death as a solution to suffering while hospice is about addressing the quality of living until death occurs.

Hospice care is one approach to caring for someone with a terminal illness. Hospice care is usually begun after all treatment plans have been exhausted and death appears to be imminent. The focus of hospice care is no longer to treat an illness, or look for a cure, but to provide a quality of life and comfort during the final stages of illness. Hospice care may be provided in a medical facility or in your home, may involve pain management, and may be covered by public or private insurance plans. Many people who choose hospice care have opted to discontinue treatments and allow the disease to take its course - which is one form of euthanasia.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.