I spoke to a friend this morning whose father was murdered by terminal sedation (aka "palliative" care). Her father suffered from Alzheimer's and his mind was pretty well gone, but physically he was in great shape. He and his wife lived with one of my friend's children who took him for a long walk every day and knew how to manage all his grandfather's moods. They were good buddies. My friend lived nearby and spent as much time as possible visiting her parents and enjoying her father's company.
But the rest of the family (including my friend's mother who had power of attorney) decided to put him in a nursing home where he was difficult to control because he wanted to be released. My friend told me that every time she went to visit him he was trying to escape -- pulling at every door and even the bookcases looking for a way out. Three nursing homes and several months later he pretty much gave up. When she went to see him he would be sitting in a wheelchair slumped over and drooling. He got an infection and ended up in a hospital "palliative" ward where he was denied food, water, and antibiotics. Within several months, he went from an elderly man who was walking two miles a day with his grandson, to dead from dehydration and terminal sedation. It was Terri Schiavo and Hugh Finn without the publicity.
My friend considered trying to get guardianship at one point, but she was familiar with the earlier cases and knew it would be a lengthy legal battle and the result would be the same. He had also deteriorated so much she didn't think he could recover. With a number of young children still at home, she didn't think she could deal with the fight. So here was a faithful daughter (and her husband) willing to care for both her parents until they died, who had to watch while her faithless siblings and her mom murdered her father.
Welcome to the realities of the culture of death.
Terminal sedation is abortion for the elderly. You have dementia and get pneumonia? Like Rahm Emmanuel says, Never let a crisis go to waste. See it as an opportunity for a quick exit. No antibiotics and terminal sedation. Abortion completed. Your loved one is healthy but brain damaged like Terri Schiavo and Hugh Finn? No problem. Starvation, dehydration, and terminal sedation. Call it late-term abortion.
You think I'm exaggerating? The New York Times ran an article on December 27, 2009 on the practice. It is common in hospice programs. Hurry the patients along for the peace of the family and to empty the bed. Saves everyone anxiety, money, and hassle. Except, perhaps, the patient. But he is drugged so whatever objections he may have had, you'll never have to hear them.
Sometimes, as in my friend's case, though, things aren't that smooth. Far from bringing peace to families it brings terminal strife and family breakdown. And in the case of my friend's mom, will children who killed their father, hesitate at doing the same thing to the their complicit mother? After all, she had no objections to killing dad; so how can she object to her own quick exit? It's for the children (and their inheritance?).
I wish I could say this is the only case I know of the deliberate murder of elderly parents, but it isn't. It's common practice in some hospices with or without the complicity of the families. Situations like my friend's are also becoming more and more common as the baby boomers, who often gave their children nothing in the way of faith, face the results of their hedonistic lives. "Hey, Mom put me in day care for most of my childhood and aborted my siblings; I'll put her in a nursing home and pull the plug as soon as possible." So much easier for everyone.
The worst part, however, is that while the body is being killed, the souls of the killers are dying as well. How does God who said, "Honor your father and your mother," look at the deliberate murder of parents? It is mortally sinful! And that's the greatest suffering for my friend. She would like to see her family in heaven, but fears that this life on earth may be the only common ground they ever share.
Please pray for all those in danger of death today from terminal sedation and for those who will carry it out and enable it. It's a soul-killer for sure! You can call it quick and painless, but in the end the palliative care ward, like the abortion mill, is literally hell on earth.
Mary Ann Kreitzer is a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition. She blogs at Les Femmes.