As director of Washington County Public Health Nursing, Patty Hunt has done her share of reading about Vermont’s new law allowing terminally ill patients to take their own lives.
She has thought about it a great deal as well, and there’s one thing she is sure of.
“I am glad we don’t have to deal with it right now,” she said.
Hunt, who oversees Washington County Hospice, said she realizes now that Vermont’s Death With Dignity law is in place, the topic could come up in New York, and added it is going to require a great deal of examination.
“The whole idea of hospice is to help people die with dignity. This puts a whole new spin on that,” Hunt said. “It is a tough question. It certainly has a lot of ethical and moral implications.
“It is something you have to consider from a personal perspective, as well as a program perspective.”
Hunt said her agency is handling about eight hospice-care patients right now, down from 20 to 30 patients before the county’s planned to sell its health services,
Andy Cruikshank, executive director of Fort Hudson Health Systems, agrees an assisted-suicide program requires a great deal of analysis.
“Beyond being a medical decision, it is a psychosocial and philosophical decision,” said Cruikshank, whose facility contracts hospice care and also has its own palliative, end-of-life care.
Cruikshank has been in the elder care industry for 25 years.
“I have been around end-of-life decisions so many times, that no matter what the experience is, I know it’s going to be a personal choice,” he added. “There are so many facts to deal with, it’s not possible to draw any conclusions.”
He said the topic brings “a whole host of issues,” but in the end, it comes down to a decision health care professionals make every day.
“Do we treat or do we not treat?” he asked. “It is a philosophical choice. Who is at the center of my personal destiny?”
Rob Puglisi is spokesman for Community Hospice, which is based in Rensselaer and operates seven centers, including Saratoga County Hospice.
He said while he appreciated being asked for his firm’s comments on the Vermont law, he said his group would not have any comment.
Puglisi said Community Hospice has not developed a position either for or against the idea, and he added no one at his office had been following the debate closely.