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'Death With Dignity' Difficult For Hospice Workers

OPB | July 23, 2013 4:23 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 3, 2014 2:21 p.m. | OPB

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Workers who provide hospice care to the dying are struggling with physician-assisted death laws, according to a new study out of Oregon State University.

OSU religion and culture professor Courtney Campbell looked at the policies and regulations of various hospice programs in Oregon and Washington.

He says while the Death with Dignity laws protect patients, physicians and the state, it doesn’t consider hospice workers.

He says those workers commit to staying with patients until they die. But they also make a commitment not to hasten death.

“So you’ve got a kind of moral and organizational tension there about how it is that you carry out both of these commitments to your patient primarily and the family,” Campbell said.

Peggy Sandeen is executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center. She says the laws are all about autonomy - that is self-determination for everyone, from patient to care givers. 

She says nobody is forced to take part in a death.

The study is published in the latest Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

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