The relatively new hospice industry is a needed and important part of end-of-life care. But it has grown too quickly for the relatively minor oversight it gets, and that has caused heart-wrenching patient harm.
That’s the take-home message of a recent exposé in the Washington Post. “Hospices,” it says, “are among the least inspected organizations in the U.S. health-care system, with most operating for years before an inspector calls. Malpractice suits and other legal claims against hospices are difficult to pursue, attorneys said, because for such patients, death is expected. Finally, many families may be unaware of what kind of nursing care hospices are obliged to provide, experts say.”
Hospice care focuses on comfort rather than cure. It discourages invasive treatment in favor of enabling people to die at home, which most Americans with serious illness say they prefer.
But fulfilling that wish depends on patients getting the medical attention they need in a crisis, and, The Post says, hundreds of hospices fail in that effort. About 1 in 6 U.S. hospice agencies didn’t provide crisis care to any of its patients in 2012. Some hospice agencies are shortchanging patients and their families in nursing attention, and the results are anguishing.
Read the whole story here.