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Denver Catholic: The antidote to physician-assisted suicide: Catholic end-of-life care

The following is a story published by the Denver Catholic July 14, 2016..

 

Divine Mercy Supportive Care offers hospice, palliative service

By Roxanne King/Denver Catholic

When California’s Brittany Maynard, 29, was grabbing headlines in 2014 for her planned physician-assisted suicide to evade the last stages of brain cancer, Colorado’s Jane Smith, 50, was in the final throes of the same cancer.

Smith, however, chose a natural death so as to live every second of life God granted her.

Rather than turning to physician-assisted suicide, Jane and her family turned to their Catholic faith and the apostolate Divine Mercy Supportive Care, to make Jane’s transition to death and new life comfortable, peaceful and beautiful.

Her family says the precious final days they had with Jane and the love and courage it took for her to give them are an incomparable gift.

“I wouldn’t give up those last moments with my mom for anything in the world,” daughter Miranda Smith, a college student, said in a video on end-of-life care. “I can’t imagine not having that at all.”

Divine Mercy Supportive Care offers hospice (end-of-life care) and palliative (medical treatment and comfort care) service guided by the US bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD’s). When the Smiths, parishioners at St. Thomas More in Centennial, knew Jane was near the end of her life, they researched hospices.

“We found Divine Mercy and knew right away it was exactly what we were looking for,” Miranda wrote about the organization, which serves non-Catholics as well. “[Mom] was surrounded by safety and faith and love.”

Divine Mercy was recently sanctioned by Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP), which affirms it meets the health care industry’s highest nationally recognized standards. It is also certified as a Medicare provider.

“When you put those together—those ERD’s along with the CHAP accreditation—you have a hospice that does things very differently,” said Kevin Lundy, Divine Mercy’s president and CEO. Offering an example he said, “Our chaplaincy program is different in that they are priests, not just because we are Catholic but because we are trying to provide the highest degree of excellence.”

That the organization is a nonprofit, he said, allows it to be “mission focused rather than profit focused.

“When you’re a nonprofit,” he added, “you have no responsibility to shareholders, but to the public to do a public good.”

That public good extends to helping to build a culture of life by educating the public on ethical end-of-life care through consultations, training and talks. Divine Mercy also helped to defeat two physician-assisted suicide bills in Colorado the past two years. But the physician-assisted suicide movement is back in the state again with ballot issues under way.

“Both sides are being compassionate in saying they don’t want people to suffer,” Lundy notes in the end-of-life care video, which was produced by the Denver Archdiocese. “As Catholics we don’t believe that hastening death is necessary to allow a person to die in peace and comfort.”

Hospice, Lundy said, is the antidote to physician-assisted suicide.

Had Jane Smith ended her life prematurely with physician-assisted suicide, he noted, she and her family would have been denied the knowledge of how profoundly beautiful the dying experience can be. Hospice, he added, is a gift of time that allows for reconciliation, for goodbyes, for treasured last experiences and for peace of mind that a loved one lived their life to its natural end.

The Smith family agrees.

“Divine Mercy was one of the greatest blessings to our family,” wrote Miranda Smith, who was so grateful for their service that she served as an intern for the organization the summer after her mother’s death.

“In that last month of her life Divine Mercy not only supported my mother but also our family,” she continued. “We all had the comfort of knowing that we were doing all that we could to make her time on earth as peaceful and joyful as possible.”

 

Divine Mercy Supportive Care
Online: www.dmsci.org
Address: 303 S. Broadway Blvd., Ste. 220, Denver, CO 80209
Phone: 303-357-2540
Email: gro.icsmd@ofni