The National Association of Pro-life Nurses joins the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA and the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO) and other organizations in opposing the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (2019) H.R. 647, S.2080. (HALO has issued an action alert with the contact numbers for legislators on the Senate committee considering this bill.)
As nurses, we strive to care for our seriously ill, disabled and terminally ill patients with compassion and the highest ethical standards. We applaud the medical innovations and supportive care options that can help our patients attain the highest quality of life possible.
However now many of us nurses are now seeing unethical practices such as assisted suicide, terminal sedation (with withdrawal/withholding of food, water and critical medicines), voluntary stopping of eating, drinking and even spoon feeding, etc. used to cause or hasten death but often called palliative, “comfort” or routine hospice care for such patients.
We believe that the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (2019) will allow federal funding to teach and institutionalize such unethical practices without sufficient oversight, safeguards or penalties.
For example, the Section 5 Clarifications (p. 21) against federal funding for objectionable practices “furnished for the purpose of causing, or the purpose of assisting in causing, a patient’s death, for any reason” is toothless. Such practices are already considered acceptable by many influential hospice and palliative care doctors like Dr. Timothy Quill, a board-certified palliative care physician, 2012 president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and promoter of legalizing physician-assisted suicide and terminal sedation.
It is also disturbing the Compassion and Choice, the largest and best funded organization promoting assisted suicide and other death decisions, has a mission statement stating:
“We employ educational training programs, media outreach and online and print publications to change healthcare practice, inform policy-makers, influence public opinion and empower individuals.”
and a “Federal Policy Agenda / 2016 & Beyond” goal to:
“Establish federal payment for palliative care consultations provided by trained palliative care professionals who will advocate for and support the values and choices of the patient….” (All emphasis added)
As nurses, we are also very concerned that the Act contains no conscience rights protection for those of us-doctors and nurses alike-who will do anything for our patients except deliberately end their lives or help them kill themselves.
Many of us have already faced threats of termination of employment for refusing to participate in unethical, life-ending practices without support from our nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association that recently dropped their traditional opposition to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.
For the sake of protecting our patients, the integrity of our medical and nursing professions as well as our healthcare system, we urge the public and our congressional representatives to oppose this dangerous Act.